Using learning curves on energy-efficient technologies to estimate future energy savings and emission reduction potentials in the U.S. iron and steel industry

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Increasing concerns on non-sustainable energy use and climate change spur a growing research interest in energy efficiency potentials in various critical areas such as industrial production. This paper focuses on learning curve aspects of energy efficiency measures in the U.S iron and steel sector. A number of early-stage efficient technologies (i.e., emerging or demonstration technologies) are technically feasible and have the potential to make a significant contribution to energy saving and CO2 emissions reduction, but fall short economically to be included. However, they may also have the cost effective potential for significant cost reduction and/or performance improvement in the future under learning effects such as ‘learning-by-doing’.

The investigation is carried out using ISEEM, a technology oriented, linear optimization model. We investigated how steel demand is balanced with/without the availability learning curve, compared to a Reference scenario. The retrofit (or investment in some cases) costs of energy efficient technologies decline in the scenario where learning curve is applied. The analysis also addresses market penetration of energy efficient technologies, energy saving, and CO2 emissions in the U.S. iron and steel sector with/without learning impact. Accordingly, the study helps those who use energy models better manage the price barriers preventing unrealistic diffusion of energy-efficiency technologies, better understand the market and learning system involved, predict future achievable learning rates more accurately, and project future savings via energy-efficiency technologies with presence of learning.

We conclude from our analysis that, most of the existing energy efficiency technologies that are currently used in the U.S. iron and steel sector are cost effective. Penetration levels increases through the years, even though there is no price reduction. However, demonstration technologies are not economically feasible in the U.S. iron and steel sector with the current cost structure. In contrast, some of the demonstration technologies are adapted in the mid-term and their penetration levels increase as the prices go down with learning curve. We also observe large penetration of 225kg pulverized coal injection with the presence of learning.

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