Renewable Thermal Collaborative Wins Climate Award Worth $10 Million

Lever for Change announced yesterday the Renewable Thermal Collaborative (RTC) as the recipient of the $10 million 2030 Climate Challenge, an award sponsored by an anonymous donor to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

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Created and jointly managed by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), David Gardiner and Associates (DGA), and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), RTC is said to be the first and only coalition of renewable energy buyers, sellers, and service providers dedicated to scaling renewable thermal energy solutions. This funding will help RTC slash industrial thermal emissions 30% over the next decade, which in 2030 is equivalent to the emissions of 63 coal-fired power plants in one year, or over 54 million passenger vehicles driven for one year.

The Challenge was managed by Lever for Change, a nonprofit affiliate of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation that helps donors find and fund solutions to the world’s greatest challenges, including racial and gender equity, economic development, and climate change.

“The Renewal Thermal Collaborative has the ambitious goal of reducing industrial thermal emissions, which, unlike other sectors of the economy, are projected to grow by 10.3% and become the second largest source of emissions in the U.S. by 2030,” said Cecilia Conrad, CEO of Lever for Change. “We are particularly excited by the Collaborative’s potential to build consensus, create the multi-stakeholder community needed to overcome the current barriers blocking cost-effective renewable thermal solutions, and educate policymakers. Ultimately, we believe that this project will trigger system changes that will lead to full-sector decarbonization by 2050.”

The U.S. currently has the second highest amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Thermal energy for industrial production generates 12.5% of those emissions—more than the entire agricultural sector. Tackling this neglected wedge of emissions is critical. Yet, cost-effective renewable thermal energy solutions are largely unavailable.

The primary barriers impeding progress are an inadequate policy framework, technology that is undeveloped or too costly, and a lack of market and financing solutions. RTC will drive investments in technology, markets, and policy to increase thermal energy and reduce U.S. industrial thermal emissions by 30% by 2030 to decarbonize industrial heat at the scale and speed needed to put us on a pathway to fully decarbonize by 2050.

“The best initiatives aim to address big problems with bold targets and credible metrics to track progress. The Renewable Thermal Collaborative does all of these things,” said Carter Roberts, President and CEO of WWF. “It will slash the growing but largely neglected emissions from industrial thermal energy use – without which there is no credible path to achieving our Paris Agreement targets. And it sets an ambitious goal of a 30 percent emissions cut by 2030, with a stepwise plan to get there over the next nine years. WWF is proud to partner with C2ES and David Gardiner and Associates on this initiative.”

The 2030 Climate Challenge was launched in April 2020. Sixty-eight proposals were evaluated during a three-month process that included peer reviews, as well as a final review by an expert panel of more than 45 climate experts from the academic, philanthropic, and private sectors. Applications were evaluated based on four criteria: whether they were impactful, feasible, scalable, and durable. Five teams were named finalists in January 2021 and each worked with a team of technical experts to strengthen, revise, and re-submit their proposed solutions.

Lever for Change is calling on additional philanthropists to join efforts to fully fund all five of the finalists that were identified during this Challenge. Interested donors may contact Dana Rice, Vice President of Philanthropy.

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Soumya Duggal

Soumya is a master's degree holder in English, with a passion for writing. It's an interest she has directed towards environmental writing recently, with a special emphasis on the progress being made in renewable energy.