IEA (2021), Tracking Industry 2021, IEA, Paris https://www.iea.org/reports/tracking-industry-2021
About this report
Greater material and energy efficiency, the uptake of renewable fuels, and development and deployment of low-carbon process routes (including CCS and hydrogen) are all critical. Governments can accelerate progress by reducing risks associated with developing new technologies and adopting mandatory CO2 emissions reduction and energy efficiency policies.
Demand for industrial products has risen considerably in the past two decades, along with energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Some modest improvements have been made in industrial productivity (value added per unit of energy consumed) and in renewable energy uptake, and some positive policy and innovation steps have also been taken. Nonetheless, progress is far too slow. Accelerated efforts on all fronts will be needed to get industry on track with the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario.
The industry sector accounted for 38% (156 EJ) of total global final energy use in 2020 (this includes energy used for blast furnaces and coke ovens listed in the transformation and energy industry own-use sections in the IEA energy balance, as well as feedstocks listed under non-energy use in the IEA energy balance). This represents a 1% average annual increase in energy consumption from 2010 to 2019, although a 1.6% decline in 2020 resulted from lower industrial activity in some regions during the Covid-19 crisis.
Growth in energy consumption over the past decade has been driven largely by an ongoing long-term trend of rising production in energy-intensive industry subsectors (i.e. chemicals, iron and steel, cement, pulp and paper and aluminium), which was in turn driven by population growth and socio-economic development. The highest rate of industrial energy consumption growth in 2010-2020 occurred in India and the ASEAN countries (2.5% or greater annual growth), while China had the largest absolute rise (accounting for more than half of the total net increase). Meanwhile, industrial energy use declined slightly in Europe and the Americas.
The industry sector’s energy mix has remained relatively unchanged overall since 2010. While solar thermal and geothermal final energy use expanded the most quickly – more than doubling from 2010 to 2020 – they accounted for less than 0.05% of total final industrial energy use in 2020. The fossil fuel share of the energy mix decreased from 73% to 68%. Meanwhile, electricity rose from 18% to 22%, largely owing to increasing electricity use in non-energy-intensive industries.
In the Net Zero Emissions Scenario, growth in energy use needs to be limited to about 0.9% per year to 2030, despite expected expansion in industrial production. Energy mix changes – particularly a shift away from coal and towards natural gas, bioenergy and electricity – help reduce the direct CO2 emissions intensity of industrial energy use. While solar thermal and geothermal energy continue to expand, they cannot yet provide high-temperature heat on a large scale, and therefore are unable to replace a significant portion of industrial process heat. Innovation is needed to expand the potential to use renewables and electricity (both directly and indirectly via hydrogen) in a greater portion of industrial processes, particularly for high-temperature heat.
Industrial energy productivity (industrial value added per unit of energy used) has risen in most regions since 2000. The increased productivity comes mainly from deployment of state-of-the-art technologies, operational adjustments leading to more efficient equipment use, and a structural shift away from energy-intensive industry (e.g. steel and cement) and towards a larger share of added value from higher-value-added sectors (e.g. automotive manufacturing, food and beverages, and textiles).
Historically, the greatest improvements in energy productivity have been in developed countries, which tend to focus on higher-value industrial products, while countries in which industrialisation is more recent have shown relatively little progress.
Middle Eastern industrial productivity has declined as a result of strong development in energy-intensive manufacturing subsectors (particularly cement) between 2004 and 2010, which offset the deployment of best available technologies in several expanding industries.
In China, industrial productivity changed very little or even fell between 2000 and 2006, but it has since risen. Improvements resulted from China beginning to diversify industrial activities away from energy-intensive steel and cement production and towards high-value industries such as machinery and chemicals. Implementation of mandatory energy efficiency policies (the Top 1 000 and Top 10 000 programmes) also helped.
Energy productivity is closely connected with energy efficiency. Annual energy efficiency investments in the industry sector totalled less than USD 40 billion in 2020, an estimated 1% contraction from 2019. Global industrial activity declined during 2020 and limited capital expenditures on energy-efficient equipment. China was one of the few economies with growth in industrial value added, and the country’s share of worldwide energy efficiency investments rose to over 40% (up from 37% in 2018), while spending declined in other large economies, including the United States and Europe. After China, India and Southeast Asia had the largest investment in industrial energy efficiency, with 9% and 8% respectively of the world total in 2020. In India, investment in 2020 was 12% lower than the previous year, while in Southeast Asia it was 6% higher.
Increased investment in industrial energy efficiency will be needed to get this indicator on the Net Zero by 2050 track. In this scenario, global industrial productivity increases 2.5% per year to 2030 – an acceleration from the 2.0% annual growth of 2010‑2020.
Global renewable heat consumption in industry increased at an average annual rate of 2% during 2011-2020. Yet, renewables met just 11% (11 EJ) of industrial heat demand in 2020 – only 1.8 percentage points higher than a decade earlier. This falls well short of the 7%-per-year increase needed to align with the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 trajectory by 2030, in which renewables satisfy 22% (22 EJ) of projected industrial heat demand.
In 2020, the majority (86%) of renewable heat consumed in industry came from bioenergy, equalling 9.4% of industrial heat demand. Most consumption occurs in industries that produce biomass wastes and residues on site, such as pulp and paper, and sugar and ethanol.
While bioenergy represents a notable share of energy demand in pulp and paper production (around 30%), and to a lesser extent in cement (3%), its use is very limited in other energy-intensive industries. In the absence of stronger policy support, developing sustainable and local biomass supply chains to increase bioenergy use in industry can be challenging, especially when low fossil fuel prices compromise bioenergy cost-competitiveness. Furthermore, in densely populated areas, fine particulate matter emissions associated with biomass combustion raise health concerns.
Local biomass resources may also not be sufficient to meet industrial energy requirements with adequate sustainability standards, and biomass allocation strategies should take competing demand for other end-uses into account, particularly those for which limited sustainable alternatives are available. In the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario, global industrial bioenergy consumption grows three times more quickly from 2021 to 2030 than during the past ten years, with greater use of municipal waste in the cement subsector and the expansion of sugar and ethanol production.
Excluding ambient heat harnessed by heat pumps (for which only limited data is available globally), renewable electricity is the second-largest renewable heat source in industry, accounting for 1.1% of industrial heat consumption in 2020. Owing to the combination of industrial process electrification and the increasing penetration of renewables in the power sector, the use of renewable electricity for process heat increased by almost three-quarters between 2010 and 2020.
The Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario depicts a fourfold increase in renewable electricity used for heat in industry from 2020 to 2030. However, although recent technical improvements have made electric heat pumps an efficient and cost-competitive option for low-temperature processes, a lack of strong policy support will continue to limit direct electricity use for high-temperature process heat because of its high cost.
Solar heat for industrial processes continues to be an expanding niche market, although its current share in global industrial heat demand is still negligible (less than 0.02% in 2020). Alignment with the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario will require a fifty-fold increase in solar thermal heat consumption by 2030. While technical limitations prevent solar thermal uptake for high-temperature applications, solar thermal energy is well suited to processes that require low-temperature heat (below 100°C), such as drying, bleaching, cooking and sterilisation, which occur in, for example, the textile and food industries. Yet despite solar thermal’s significant untapped potential, several barriers currently hamper its deployment in industry, chiefly a lack of policy support and investor awareness and confidence, the latter being due partly to low supply chain maturity.
Direct geothermal use for industry amounted to 21 PJ in 2020, representing 0.02% of global industrial heat consumption. The development of geothermal systems for industry remains confined to a limited number of countries (14 in 2019), with China, New Zealand, Iceland, Russia and Hungary leading the way. Industrial applications account for less than 2% of total direct geothermal use globally, and include concrete curing, bottling of water and carbonated drinks, milk pasteurisation, leatherworking, chemical extraction, CO2 extraction, pulp and paper processing, iodine and salt extraction, and borate and boric acid production. While geothermal heat consumption more than doubled from 2010 to 2020, the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario envisions a further threefold increase by 2030.
Demand for materials is a major determinant of total energy consumption and CO2 emissions in industry subsectors. Material demand has historically been linked closely with both population and economic development: as economies develop, urbanise, consume more goods and build up their infrastructure, material demand per capita tends to increase considerably. Once industrialised, an economy’s material demand may level off and perhaps even begin to decline.
Decoupling material demand from economic and population growth can help curb growth in energy consumption and CO2 emissions from material production. In the past couple of decades, the increase in global demand for key energy-intensive bulk materials has exceeded population growth – and for many materials, GDP growth. Growth since 2000 has been particularly high, largely driven by rapid economic development in China.
There were periods during the past decade in which demand temporarily levelled off for several materials: steel from 2011 to 2016 and cement from 2015 to 2018. Nevertheless, growth has resumed. Cement production increased particularly strongly (+2%) in 2020 despite the economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 crisis. Production of other materials either expanded at a slower rate or even declined in 2020, although declines were modest considering the global GDP drop of about 5%. Infrastructure projects to stimulate economic recovery, particularly in China, were a key reason that material demand remained relatively robust.
While material demand in China is expected to saturate and level off by the mid-2020s, strong growth in other emerging economies is likely to continue driving up global demand unless steps are taken to decouple material demand from economic and population growth.
Reducing material demand growth through ambitious pursuit of material efficiency strategies can help curb emissions. For instance, in the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario, demand in 2030 for steel is 7% lower than in a baseline scenario that follows current trends, while cement and aluminium demand are both 6% lower.
Opportunities for material efficiency exist at every stage of any supply value chain. In the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario, use-phase reductions, including extending building lifetimes through repair and refurbishment and reducing vehicle demand largely through mode-shifting, make the largest contribution (approximately 50%) to the combined reduction in demand for steel, cement and aluminium in 2030. Product design and fabrication strategies, including vehicle lightweighting and improved building design, also make a significant contribution (about 45%). Higher metal manufacturing yields at the material production stage, as well as end-of-life reuse, contribute the remaining reductions. Additionally, increased end-of-life recycling can reduce emissions by enabling increased uptake of lower-emitting secondary production methods.
Carbon pricing – through emissions trading schemes or carbon taxes – is being applied to industry emissions in various countries around the world.
In the European Union, an Emissions Trading System (ETS) covering industry has been in place since 2005. For much of the first decade, an overabundance of allowances led to low prices, but they have begun to rise in recent years – from an average price of EUR 6 (USD 7) per tonne in 2017 to EUR 25 (USD 29) in 2020, with prices reaching higher than EUR 60 (USD 70) on some days in the second half of 2021. Additionally, for industry subsectors deemed less trade-exposed, the free allocation of allowances was reduced from 80% in 2013 to near 30% in 2020. Highly trade-exposed industries continue to receive free allowances for emissions equivalent to production at a benchmark emissions intensity.
The revised rules for phase 4 (2021-2030) include larger emissions cuts, with allowances declining at an annual rate of 2.2% (compared with the previous 1.74%) and reinforced use of a Market Stability Reserve to reduce and prevent emissions allowance surpluses.
Due to concerns about the impact of the ETS on industrial competitiveness, the European Union has been developing a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism. The European Commission adopted a proposal for this mechanism in July 2021, although it must still undergo review and possible modification by the European Parliament and Council of the European Union before being considered final. According to the proposal, starting in 2023 importers in the sectors initially covered – iron and steel, cement, fertiliser, aluminium and electricity – will be required to report embedded emissions. Starting in 2026 they will need to purchase certificates for those emissions equivalent to the EU ETS price, unless the producer has already paid an equivalent carbon price in the country of origin.
In China, an ETS came intro force in February 2021, initially covering only the power sector. Initial prices are expected to be low, equivalent to about CNY 25 (USD 4) per tonne of CO2. There are plans to include several industry subsectors at an unspecified future date. In fact, the Chinese administration required key energy-intensive industries to report their emissions in 2020, which signals a move towards better data collection for their eventual inclusion in the ETS. It is likely that several industrial sectors could be added in 2022.
Other countries with emissions pricing covering industry include Korea, whose ETS reached an average price of KRW 32 600 (USD 28) per tonne of CO2 in 2020, and Canada, whose output-based carbon pricing system for industry is at CAN 40 (USD 32) per tonne as of 2021. In late 2020, Canada announced an increase in its carbon price to CAN 170 (USD 135) per tonne by 2030. The United States and Canada are each also in the early stages of considering carbon border adjustments, as stated by the United States in its Trade Policy Agenda released in March 2021 and by Canada in its 2020 Fall Economic Statement.
A number of notable industry energy policies have focused specifically on improving energy efficiency. India’s Perform, Achieve, Trade (PAT) scheme, which began in 2012, uses a market-based regulation to drive industry energy efficiency towards sectoral targets. It is now being implemented on a rolling basis with new installations added each year, so cycles IV, V and VI are now all under way. The first three cycles were all successful, saving even more energy than targeted.
In China, the 100, 1 000, 10 000 Programme was included as part of the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016‑2020), superseding the previous Top 10 000 Programme, a component of its 12th Five-Year Plan (2011‑2015). It requires that large enterprises take measures, including establishing energy management systems, to achieve specified energy savings. How the programme will evolve under the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021‑2025) may be soon known from the more specific five-year plans that follow release of the general outline plan.
Minimum energy performance standards are also in place for industrial motors in nearly 60 countries. More than 40% of global motor energy consumption is currently covered by mandatory standards. Virtually all motor energy consumption is covered in North America and 40-50% of energy use is covered in Latin America, Europe and the Asia Pacific region, while policy coverage is considerably lower in other regions.
In 2020, the Super-efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment Initiative and the UK Government launched the COP26 Product Efficiency Call to Action to set countries on a trajectory to double the efficiency of industrial motor systems and other key products sold globally by 2030. The IEA is developing an energy performance ladder bringing together different efficiency policies under a single consistent set of performance thresholds to raise policy ambition over time.
Increasing attention in recent years has been paid to the need to create demand for low-emission materials. In April 2021, Germany released draft plans for a pilot programme of carbon contracts for difference, which would support near-zero-emissions industrial production through a guaranteed minimum strike price. Meanwhile, the European Commission is considering use of these contracts as part of its proposal for a revised ETS Directive.
At the international level, a number of countries came together to launch the Industrial Deep Decarbonisation Initiative in June 2021, focused on stimulating demand for low-carbon industrial materials. Led by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation and the Clean Energy Ministerial, the initiative will initially focus on steel and cement but could expand to other materials later on.
Despite these policies, industry emissions have continued to rise in recent years. Countries will need to adopt very ambitious and comprehensive policy frameworks to bring industry CO2 emissions into line with the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario.
Two main approaches are being pursued to develop innovative low-carbon industrial processes: directly avoiding CO2 emissions by relying on renewable electricity (directly or through electrolytic hydrogen), bioenergy or alternative raw materials; and reducing CO2 emissions by minimising process energy, using fossil fuels but integrating CCUS. Finding value-enhancing uses for industrial by-products is another area of innovation, in which synergies are sought among various industrial activities, including through CCUS.
A number of key innovation efforts are under way around the world, including the following (see subsector pages for additional examples):
- The EU Innovation Fund, largely funded by revenue from the EU ETS, will provide EUR 10 billion from now to 2030 to support large-scale demonstrations of low-carbon technologies and processes in energy-intensive industries, CCUS, renewable energy and energy storage. The first call for large-scale project proposals closed in autumn 2020, with grants to be awarded by the end of 2021. Of the 311 large-scale projects that applied, two-thirds (204) are related to energy-intensive industries, of which one-quarter (56) involve hydrogen. The first call for small-scale projects has already resulted in 32 successful projects funded.
- Mission Innovation is a global initiative of 23 countries and the European Commission to accelerate global clean energy innovation. Four of the seven Innovation Challenges launched in 2016 are relevant to the industry sector: carbon capture, clean energy materials, sustainable biofuels and converting sunlight. In 2018, an eighth Innovation Challenge was launched on renewable and clean hydrogen, also relevant to industry.
- In the iron and steel sector, the HYBRIT project began operating a hydrogen-based direct reduced iron pilot plant in Sweden in the summer of 2020. A trial delivery of the first fossil fuel-free steel took place in August 2021, and an industrial-scale demonstration plant could come online as early as 2026. Several other projects are also exploring the use of hydrogen for steel production, while others still are aiming to apply CCS.
- Multiple projects are under way around the world to test CCUS applications in the cement sector, using at least five different capture technologies. For example, the CLEANKER project’s pre-commercial demonstration plant in Italy applying calcium looping began operations in October 2020; the CO2ment project in Canada completed its second-phase pilot project trials in early 2021 using a novel physical adsorption technology; and in 2019 Dalmia Cement announced it will undertake large-scale demonstration of chemical absorption capture at its plant in Tamil Nadu, India.
- Related to chemical production, multiple companies are developing pilot projects to produce ammonia from solar and wind energy, with plans to scale up industrial production by 2030. In 2020, Canada’s Alberta Carbon Trunk Line CCS project began operating, with its activities including transporting CO2 from Nutrien’s fertiliser plant for permanent storage. Innovation is also under way on improved plastic recycling.
- In the aluminium industry, progress has been made in recent years towards commercialising inert anodes, which – unlike conventional carbon anodes used in aluminium smelting – do not degrade and do not release CO2 as process emissions. In June 2021, Elysis (a joint venture between Alcoa and Rio Tinto) began constructing its first commercial-scale prototype cells at a smelter in Quebec, Canada, with the aim of bringing inert anodes to market by 2024. In Russia, RUSAL commenced test deliveries of a pilot batch of aluminium produced with inert anodes in spring 2021, and it is targeting mass-scale production by 2023.
While innovation efforts of recent years are promising, accelerated action will be needed to develop and deploy technologies for medium- to long-term CO2 emissions reductions in industry. Most of the new low-carbon processes in industry that will be key to long-term emissions reductions in the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario are on track to become commercially available by 2030-2035. Ensuring these milestones are achieved, or possibly even reaching them ahead of schedule, will be critical to put the industry sector on a Net Zero Emissions by 2050 trajectory.
Deployment of best available technologies can help improve industry energy efficiency and should be pursued when economical, keeping in mind the longer-term need to transition to breakthrough near-zero-emissions technologies. Adopting waste heat/gas recovery and cogeneration technologies could be expanded in subsectors such as iron and steel and pulp and paper.
Furthermore, ensuring efficient equipment operations and maintenance will help guarantee optimal energy performance. This can be reinforced by implementing energy management systems. Developing plant-level action plans and sharing best practices can also help improve energy efficiency, while governments can accelerate the process by adopting energy efficiency targets and regulations.
Shifting increasingly to secondary production methods – i.e. using recycled inputs – will be important to improve energy efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions in metal, chemical product (including plastic) and paper manufacturing. Governments and industries can work together to improve collection avenues for recycled products and increase co‑operation among stakeholders involved in the production and end-of-life stages of the value chain. Government-mandated recycling requirements, waste disposal fees, recycled content requirements and extended producer responsibility can also help increase recycling.
Reducing overall demand through material efficiency strategies at all stages of the value chain can avoid CO2 emissions from industrial production. Industries can help by considering lifecycle emissions when designing products and construction projects; by reducing waste during manufacturing and construction; and by developing sharing- and circular-economy-based business models. Policies that favour durability and the refurbishing of buildings over demolition will be pivotal to reduce demand for bulk materials. Governments can also encourage material efficiency by moving from use-phase to lifecycle-based CO2 emissions regulations, and from prescriptive to performance-based design standards.
Industries should also take advantage of opportunities for industrial symbiosis – including using the waste or by-products from one process to produce another product of value – to help close the material loop, reduce energy use and reduce emissions in the case of carbon capture and utilisation. Examples include using steel blast-furnace slag in cement production, carbon from steel waste gases to produce chemicals and fuels, and waste from other industries as alternative fuels for cement production. Industrial symbiosis can also involve sharing energy utilities, infrastructure and services. Policy support can facilitate these endeavours.
The share of renewables in industry can be increased by several means: first, by ensuring that biomass waste and residues are used at as high an efficiency as possible by industries that have access to them. Examples include shifting to higher-efficiency co‑generation technologies in the pulp and paper and sugar and ethanol industries.
The cement industry offers scope to utilise greater amounts of low-value biomass residues and municipal solid waste to offset thermal demand currently met by coal. Municipal waste consumption especially can be encouraged by increasing refuse-derived fuel availability through best-practice waste management – i.e. highly efficient waste sorting and collection, combined with mechanisms that place a cost on landfill disposal (e.g. landfill taxation).
With increasing shares of renewables in national electricity generation portfolios, the electrification of industrial processes (both directly and indirectly via hydrogen), when possible, can also raise renewable energy consumption. In countries with high amounts of direct irradiation, energy service company (ESCO) business models could boost solar thermal use in industry.
Decarbonising current industrial processes is challenging for a number of reasons. For example, emissions resulting from chemical reactions during industrial processes (process emissions) cannot be mitigated by greater energy efficiency and fuel switching alone. The high-temperature heat required in many industrial processes makes it difficult to switch completely from fossil fuel-based energy to low-carbon electricity and fuels.
Innovation over the next decade will therefore be critical to develop and reduce the costs of industrial processes and technologies that could enable substantial emissions cuts post-2030, including, for example, hydrogen-based production methods and CCUS. Increased support for RD&D is needed from governments and financial investors, particularly to advance the large-scale demonstration and deployment of technologies that have already shown promise.
Private-public partnerships can help, as can green public procurement, contracts for difference, and near-zero-emission material quotas, which can generate early demand and enable producers to gain experience and bring down costs. Government co‑ordination of stakeholder efforts can also direct focus to priority areas and avoid overlap.
It will also be important to begin planning and developing infrastructure for eventual deployment of innovative processes, such as CCUS pipeline networks to transport CO2 for use or storage, and electricity transmission grids and near-zero-emission electricity generation to enable low-carbon hydrogen production. Gaining social acceptance for building this infrastructure, particularly CO2 transport and storage facilities, and ensuring affordable access to infrastructure and energy inputs will also be necessary.
Governments can promote CO2 emissions reduction efforts by adopting mandatory CO2 emissions reduction policies, such as a gradually increasing carbon price or tradeable industry performance standards that require average CO2 intensity for production of each key material to decline across the economy and permit regulated entities to trade compliance credits.
Adopting these policies at lower stringencies in the short term (within the next three to five years) would provide an early market signal, enabling industries to prepare and adapt as stringency increases over time. It could also help reduce the costs of low-carbon production methods, softening the impact on material prices in the long term. Complementary measures may be useful in the short to medium term, such as differentiated market requirements – i.e. a government-mandated minimum proportion of low-emission materials in targeted products.
Ideally, mandatory policies would be applied globally at similar levels of ambition. Since many industrial products are widely traded, if the strength of efforts differs regionally, measures will be needed to help ensure a level global playing field – e.g. border carbon adjustments or free allocation of allowances for emissions below a targeted benchmark in an emissions trading scheme. Another option may be downstream carbon pricing or regulations on the lifecycle emissions of end products rather than on material production – for instance, regulating vehicle manufacturing plants to reduce vehicle lifecycle emissions could raise the competitiveness of lower-emissions steel and aluminium.
Governments can extend the reach of their efforts by partaking in multilateral forums to facilitate low-carbon technology transfer and to encourage other countries to also adopt mandatory CO2 emissions policies.
Improving collection, transparency and accessibility of energy performance and CO2 emissions statistics on industry would facilitate research, regulatory and monitoring efforts. Industry participation and government co‑ordination are both important to improve data collection and reporting.
Governments also need to clarify avenues for greater data sharing in a way that will not put industries at risk of breaching competition laws.
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Energy Technology Perspectives 2020
The challenge of reaching zero emissions in heavy industry
Heavy industries both facilitate and complicate the transition to a net-zero emissions energy system