Electrification of industrial boilers in the USA: potentials, challenges, and policy implications
Decarbonization of the industrial heat demand through electrification could contribute significantly to climate change mitigation efforts. In the US industry, thermal processes accounted for 75% of the total final energy demand in 2018, of which 17% is consumed by conventional industrial boilers (excluding cogeneration) for steam generation. Electric boilers have a small share in the US industrial steam generation due to several techno-economic reasons. This study employs a bottom-up approach to investigate the sector-level and state-level techno-enviro-economic potentials of deploying electric boilers in the US industry in different timeframes. The results show that the technical potential energy and CO2 savings by electrifying industrial boilers are 595 PJ and 200 MtCO2 per year in 2050, respectively; however, these incur additional costs in each sector. Although there may be individual cost-effective opportunities for electrifying boilers in specific industrial sites, the overall costs are high in all industrial sectors and states due to the large disparity between electricity and combustion fuel prices. To overcome the highlighted techno-economic barriers, a comprehensive action plan for different stakeholders is also formulated. This study provides novel insights that should inform policymakers’ and executives’ decisions about the electrification of the current and future US industrial boiler systems.