Case Studies of Renewable Thermal Energy

A report to the Renewable Thermal Collaborative by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

This series of case studies showcases successful outcomes from the use of renewable thermal technologies at several different large companies and in a major city. It also provides some understanding of the potential benefits and challenges when considering different renewable heating and cooling technologies. In each of the case studies, significant cost and emissions savings were generated by investments in renewable thermal solutions.

One key theme across all of the case studies was that each organization had clearly established sustainability goals that supported a renewable approach. Other factors that facilitated implementation of renewable thermal solutions included high and volatile fossil fuel costs or the phaseout of older capital investments, which offered an opportunity to review renewable options for heating and cooling needs.

Another common theme shared by each of the case studies was the availability of a local resource. This makes the projects more difficult to replicate since local circumstances can greatly vary the project economics or viability of a certain technology for a given application. However, facilities co-located with each other may offer expanded possibilities for renewable thermal solutions.

Most projects included in this report were self-financed and achieved their expected return on investment. However, one technology facing more economic barriers is renewable natural gas (RNG). RNG projects in the United States have been stalled due to low domestic natural gas prices. In the RNG case study included in this report, the market for the renewable fuel standard program was used to mitigate this cost barrier, but broader federal programs may be needed to help support RNG over the long term. The introduction of a thermal renewable energy certificate could also make tracking and claims easier and more standardized for these types of projects.

The Renewable Thermal Collaborative (RTC) is facilitated by the Center for Climate and Energy SolutionsDavid Gardiner and Associates, and World Wildlife Fund. The goal of the RTC is to raise awareness and build greater supply and demand for renewable thermal options. Increasing the availability and cost competitiveness of these solutions is key to deploying them at scale. With greater scale, more organizations in the industrial and commercial sectors will be able to make dramatic cuts in their carbon emissions.