New Energy Infrastructure Chief Wants Companies To Feel FOMO Over Decarbonization

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The nation’s first undersecretary of energy for infrastructure plans to rapidly accelerate the decarbonization of industrial heat, a sector he says has been postponed because it’s labeled “hard to abate.”

“We need to create an air of inevitability that these things are going to happen so that everyone’s moving in the same direction,” said David Crane on June 14, less than an hour after being sworn in as undersecretary.

“These things” include the decarbonization of industries like steel, aluminum, concrete and chemicals.

Environmentalists let these industries off the hook by labeling them “hard to abate,” Crane said in his first appearance as undersecretary at the Bipartisan Policy Center. The phrase “hard to abate” seems to have first appeared in papers by environmental economists, and is now widely used—as a Google search shows—by entities across the board including not only the World Resources Institute and the Rocky Mountain Institute, but also Siemens, Shell, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the World Economic Forum. It’s also used by Crane’s new office at DOE.

Crane implied that acceptance of the difficulty to abate has allowed companies to delay the decarbonization of industrial heat into the 2030s. Many high profile companies have adopted a phased strategy, he said, that begins with energy efficiency, then electrifying what they can—depending on utilities to clean up the grid—and only later confronting industrial heat.

“What we’re trying to do with the $6.3 billion for industrial decarb is to bring that 2035 date for deep decarbonization of processed heat into this decade,” he said, “and so if you still have a plan to do that in the 2030s you’re going to be left behind.”

President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act allocated a combined $6.3 billion for an Industrial Demonstrations Program “to support the advancement of transformational technologies necessary to decarbonize the industrial energy sector.”

Once those technologies are demonstrated, he said, companies will be motivated by competition and by FOMO, the fear of missing out.

Crane was CEO of Houston-based NRG Energy for 12 years. He also served as director of DOE’s Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations. Prior to government service, he was the CEO of Climate Real Impact Solutions and served on the Boards of Heliogen Inc, Source Global, JERA Co. Inc., and Tata Steel Ltd, along with the not-for-profit Boards of Elemental Excelerator and The Climate Group NA. He was confirmed as undersecretary June 8 by a Senate vote of 56 to 43.

Watch Crane’s appearance at BPC at 49:30 in this video:

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