We Can Clean the Air While Growing the Industrial Economy

November 8, 2019 | Barbara Canales, James Jackson, and Lynn Abramson

Originally published November 8, 2019 in the Corpus Christi Caller Times

The industrial sector is an important and growing producer and end user of America’s vast energy supplies. As U.S. manufacturing, refining, and exports grow, so too do the energy demands on our nation’s industrial centers. From 2017 to 2018, industrial energy use grew 4.7 percent, resulting in an uptick in greenhouse gas emissions.

How can the U.S. continue to accelerate economic growth in our major industrial centers without a corresponding increase in energy demand?

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 12-13, Nueces County, the Port of Corpus Christi, and the Clean Energy Business Network are teaming up to explore that question in a forum at the Solomon P. Ortiz Center titled “Clean Energy Solutions for Industrial Economies.”

Improving air quality and addressing climate change do not need to come at the cost of economic growth. In fact, the U.S. has seen an overall decoupling between economic growth and energy use over the past decade, thanks to advances in energy efficiency and clean energy. But the industrial sector remains one of the most challenging areas of the economy to decouple.

This is a solvable problem. A broad portfolio of affordable, reliable clean energy solutions already exists for industrial end users, such as combined heat and power, waste heat to power, renewable energy, carbon sequestration, and emissions controls strategies. We can learn from communities and manufacturers across the nation who are deploying these solutions to power industry more efficiently, reduce costs, improve reliability, and grow new industries and manufacturing jobs in the clean energy sector in the process.

As an example, the steel industry is ripe with opportunity for clean energy. Last month, Xcel Energy and Lightsource BP announced an unprecedented 240-MW solar facility to power the EVRAZ Rocky Mountain Steel facility in Pueblo, Colorado. This industry-utility partnership will help advance the Colorado Energy Plan, which seeks to deliver 55% renewable energy to the grid by 2026 and reduce carbon emissions by 60% — all while attracting new private investment and jobs to the region. Across the nation, entrepreneurs are innovating technologies to improve the efficiency of steel manufacturing as well as develop lighter, stronger steel that will make cars more efficient.

The oil and gas sector is also a growing end user — and investor — in clean energy. Oil companies are increasingly powering their refineries and export facilities with clean energy, while also expanding their investment portfolio to seize a share of the growing clean energy economy. This year has seen more than 70 deals in solar, wind, biofuels, and other clean energy sector — on track to surpass last year’s investments. Here in Texas, there is an enormous opportunity to tap into the rich energy sector and skilled workforce to create economic growth in these emerging cleantech sectors.

Technological innovation will continue to expand the available solutions and further drive down costs, particularly in cutting edge technologies such as hydrogen energy and carbon sequestration. Just last week, Ceres Power announced the first zero-emission combined heat and power system utilizing hydrogen fuel. Closer to home, Net Power is demonstrating a carbon sequestration technique at a natural gas power plant.

Nueces County invited the Clean Energy Business Network to partner on the upcoming Nov. 13 forum specifically because of the county’s interest in continuing to identify clean energy solutions to power the local industrial economy and improve air quality attainment.

The county is home to the Port of Corpus Christi — the third largest port in the United States in total tonnage, processing significant volumes of crude oil, liquefied natural gas, and wind turbine components. To accommodate these growing industries and protect local air quality, the port and the county have been investing in renewable energy, efficiency, and emissions controls measures — earning environmental awards for some of these projects.

The county and the port recognize that clean energy is part of the solution to remain competitive in the global economy, keep energy costs low, and achieve attainment with air quality regulations. And the Clean Energy Business Network stands ready to help.

To learn more about the forum in Corpus Christi Nov. 12-13, visit http://bit.ly/PowerCircuitCC

Barbara Canales is the Nueces County Judge and a former Port of Corpus Christi commissioner. James Jackson is founder of Resilience Energy Group and chairman of the Clean Energy Business Network. Lynn Abramson is president of the Clean Energy Business Network.