Pathways to Net-Zero Emissions Industry

Pathways to Net-Zero Emissions Industry

Transitioning to net-zero emissions industry is one of the major challenges of our time but also an opportunity to demonstrate innovative clean energy technologies and new resource management practices. 

The International Energy Analysis Department (IEAD) identifies opportunities and challenges, assesses potential low carbon pathways, and develops tools and guidelines to streamline adoption of clean technologies and practices. Focusing on emerging economies around the world that are building their cities and infrastructure, we work with policymakers, researchers, and stakeholders to assist in the transition to the industries of tomorrow.

Research Areas

Net-Zero Carbon Pathways

Net Zero Carbon Pathways

The optimal pathway to net zero emissions industry will entail drastic changes across value chains and will include:
  • Increasing material circularity, resource efficiency, byproduct synergy and waste reduction
  • Electrification where it is beneficial
  • Lower carbon fuel (such as renewable-based hydrogen and other bio-based fuels) use, system optimization
  • Reindustrialization, which will vary across industrial sub-sectors and geographical locations.
The pathway to net zero emissions in industry will also entail new industrial policy strategies and governance, including climate policy, demonstration projects, ambitious target setting, low carbon standardization, green procurement, and transparent monitoring and accounting systems.
We conduct global techno-economic assessments of industrial subsectors and systems as well as country-specific analyses, such as for China and India, with the goal of informing and supporting low carbon pathway development and assessing the potential for new policy implementation.
Our key modeling tools include the China and India 2050 Demand Resources Energy Analysis Models (DREAM), which are demand-driven bottom-up models based on technology-rich end uses which account for materials flow across sectors, and the Industry Sector Energy Efficiency Modeling (ISEEM), which is a linear optimization model of the energy and production systems of industrial products. These modeling tools are used to assess emerging low carbon technological opportunities, evaluate their energy-saving and emissions reduction impact, and identify and support policy decisions. 
By working closely with stakeholders in industry, governments, research institutes, and financing institutions, we aim to demonstrate that the benefits to transition to low carbon industries outweigh the investment costs.

Low-carbon industry benefits

LEGEND: Green: commercialized technologies; Yellow: emerging technologies coming close to commercialization;
Red: emerging technologies still under development 

Circular Economy and Material Efficiency

Circular economy iconEncouraging a more circular economy and improving material efficiency are two key strategies with significant carbon dioxide emissions reduction potential but with many barriers to adoption. These strategies require a transformation of the way we make and use products, such as the implementation of innovative product designs, repurposing of waste, the integration of new usage practices and the development of business models that valorize low carbon materials. In industry, this transformation can be achieved by substantially increasing the useful life of products and materials within key sectors, such as buildings and vehicles, and recycling the materials used to make them. 

IEAD develops methodologies and analysis to better account for the embodied emissions in material applications, such as buildings, cars, and electricity generation, and helps streamline the adoption of measures and solutions by working closely with policy makers and identifying applicable policy opportunities to accelerate adoption of circular economy and material efficiency strategies.

Industrial Energy Analysis

Industry stock imageIEAD has extensive experience developing and applying analytical methods and approaches for analysis of energy use and related emissions in the industrial sector.  Our deep understanding of industrial processes, energy efficiency, innovative technologies, management practices, and standards and policies can support both analytical efforts and on-the-ground technology and policy pilots around the world.  

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the IEAD industry team worked with the China Building Materials Academy, the China Cement Association, E3M Inc., and World Resources Institute to conduct energy and energy-related  emissions assessments at 42 cement companies in China. This project developed and tailor-designed three tools for the Chinese cement industry’s energy and emission analysis, an online public database,identified 15% of energy-related CO2 emission reduction potential per year, and demonstrated co-processing of alternative fuels and raw materials at six cement facilities. 

Expanding the work from the cement industry, the IEAD industry team developed and deployed energy assessment and energy management training for key cross-cutting systems, including process heating and steam systems. Supported by the U.S. Department of Energy and Energy Foundation China, and working with a consortium of U.S. and Chinese collaborators, the IEAD industry team conducted training workshops on industry system assessments for a number of Chinese industrial sectors, such as the cement, steel, alumina, pulp and paper, petrochemical, and chemical sectors. 

In addition, IEAD’s industry team has developed methodologies to compare energy use and energy intensity for the steel sector, and used them to analyze the steel industry in China, Germany, Mexico, and the United States. 

Currently, the IEAD industry team is working on developing process-level energy analyses for the most energy-consuming industrial sectors in China, such as cement, chemicals, iron and steel, and petroleum refining.

Industry Technical Assistance

IEAD conducts unbiased analysis and develops modeling tools to assist policy makers and industry leaders in optimizing the decarbonization transition and better understanding the benefits of new value chains to fast track adoption.

Models and tools are developed to support analysis and research in this field. Below we highlighted some tools for various industrial sectors and energy-consuming systems. More tools and software can be found here.

Stock image of cementBEST-Cement Tool: Tailor-designed for the cement industry, this tool provides energy-efficiency benchmarking by process and provides savings and cost information of commercially-available efficiency and emission reduction technologies. The tool can evaluate the cement facility’s energy and emission reduction potential through a quick assessment or a detailed assessment.            


Stock image of industrial heating systemPHAST Tool: This Excel-based process-heating assessment and survey tool is designed to improve energy efficiency and save energy for industrial heating systems, such as furnaces, melters, ovens, heaters, dryers, and boilers. The tool has been used in many industrial plants in the U.S. and a number of other countries to identify energy use distribution, estimate energy losses, as well as analyze potential energy savings by using commonly recommended energy saving measures.  


Stock image of paper industryEAGER-Pulp and Paper: This tool is designed to evaluate the impact of selected energy-efficiency measures and technologies for the pulp and paper industry. Users can select the degree or share of implementation of each measure, and the tool provides typical energy savings (electricity, fuel, final and primary energy), carbon dioxide emission reductions, cost, and simple payback period based on case studies conducted in pulp and paper plants around the world. 


Stock image of factoryMASTER Tool: Intended to be used by policymakers in local and national governments and by academia and other organizations, this tool quantifies the impact of different factors -- production growth, industry structural change, and energy intensity change on industrial energy use both historically and in the future. Users can develop scenarios to show how structural change can be achieved through various pathways.


We have developed guidebooks to provide knowledge, information, and examples on specific topics related to the industrial sector and/or systems. These guidebooks focus on emerging technologies for the iron and steel sector, cement and concrete production, pulp and paper industry, and textile sectors and on energy efficiency improvement opportunities and commercially-available technologies for a variety of industries, such as breweries, cement, glass, iron and steel, petrochemicals, petroleum refining, pharmaceuticals, pulp and paper industry, and textiles. A full list of our guidebooks is here.