The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is full-throttle on cutting emissions and reducing energy consumption with its Energy Earthshots program.
The term “Energy Earthshots,” coined by the DOE, denotes several different programs aimed at producing clean energy from various sources. For example, there are Hydrogen Shots, Carbon Negative Shots, Enhanced Geothermal Shots, Floating Offshore Wind Shots and Industrial Heat Shots.
Announced in September 2022, Industrial Heat Shots target finding solutions to use in place of existing means of industrial heat, which is used in heat-intense industries such as steel and cement production. DOE is providing R&D and energy development incentives to find replacements for or modifications to conventional industrial heat sources. The aim is to reduce greenhouse emissions by at least 85% by 2035. The Biden administration has set an overall goal of zero emissions from all sources by 2050.
According to the DOE, a focus on industrial heat shots alone may potentially reduce carbon-equivalent emissions by 575 million metric tons by 2050. They put this in context by noting this equates to all annual emissions generated by passenger cars on the road today.
Why it matters
The industrial sector accounts for about one-third of the primary energy use and 30% of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the United States. The problem is complex, as there are numerous sources of energy used throughout the intricate processes for producing commodities such as steel and concrete. Finding one solution for one energy expenditure isn’t enough—a more comprehensive solution (or heat shot) is required.
Industrial heat expenditures include processes such as moisture removal, steam generation, chemical processes, metals treatment and plastics heating and melting. Such industrial processes, which cut across several industries, account for about 9% of the entire U.S. emissions footprint.
The DOE outlined three pathways for industrial heat shots:
- Go electric. This pathway is focused on electrification of all heating operations. Use electric equipment powered by clean electricity and add further energy-efficiency through accompanying technology such as resistive heating, heat pumps and microwave systems.
- Incorporate low-emissions heat sources. Geothermal energy, concentrated solar power and, in some cases, nuclear energy enable thermal storage and have lower overall emissions.
- Apply innovative sources of low- or no-heat process technologies. This includes applying chemical and biotechnical processes that employ energy sources with low heat demand. Such processes include bio-based manufacturing, electrolysis, ultraviolet curing and advanced separations.
What could this mean for electrical contractors?
DOE funding will be a source of innovation and technology modifications throughout the United States as more electrification takes place at industrial production facilities. In addition, new technology and innovations will be prototyped and replaced—all which will have electrical contractors in the mix of suppliers and vendors.
Contractors should point a watchful eye on DOE programs and understand their intent, as well as where resources will be directed.