Insights on Green Heat: Ways to Improve Energy Productivity and Reduce Our Emissions

Insights on Green Heat: Ways to Improve Energy Productivity and Reduce Our Emissions

It’s a stubborn, sad fact that the majority of heating for buildings in the U.S. is still completely reliant on fossil fuels. In industrial facilities, where steam is king and is used for processes loads and general heating, fossil fuel usage is even more entrenched.

To improve energy productivity and reduce our emissions, we have to implement better ways to heat our buildings and serve industrial processes. There are multiple, proven avenues to do this. Below are a few that will be very impactful:

  1. Implement electric heating using modern, high-efficiency heat pumps. In this case, the electricity would be produced from renewable, or clean(er) energy sources.
  2. Move away from using steam for general space heating and many industrial processes.
  3. Where combustion is necessary, use “renewable” fuels such as methane collected as a by-product from municipal wastewater treatment plants, agricultural waste, and landfills. Also consider “renewable” hydrogen produced from water and renewable electricity through electrolysis.
  4. Honorable mention: utilize cogeneration, a.k.a. Combined Heat and Power to get the most out of on premise fuel use.


Collectively, these sources of heating and associated fuels can be referred to as Green Heat since they require little or no fossil fuel. These approaches are based on mature, reliable technologies that just need to be scaled up to make them more cost competitive.

Each of these will be explored in more detail in subsequent blogs. As a preface to these discussions, it’s important to remember that implementing these strategies to a meaningful degree will be made MUCH easier by adopting current best practices for energy efficiency. In fact, there’s not a whole lot stopping us from reducing our overall energy intensity by at least 20% relatively quickly. Most of our existing building stock is full of low-hanging fruit. (Leaky envelopes, inefficient lighting, poor controls, etc.) On the industrial side, our processes rely on technologies and practices that are well over 100 years old.

Change can be hard, but not that hard. Let’s dive in.