After launching buyers coalition, US looks toward supply for hard-to-abate sectors
November 30, 2021
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  • The recently launched First Movers Coalition of companies joining to build demand for technologies to cut emissions from hard-to-abate sectors will need to be paired with corresponding efforts to build supply and develop associated infrastructure, a US official said Nov. 30.

    During the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, the Biden administration announced it was partnering with the World Economic Forum to launch the “buyers’ club” to create early demand across eight “need-to abate” sectors.

    Thirty-four companies, representing $6 trillion in market capitalization, signed up to be founding members, committing to buy new technologies by the end of the decade in either shipping, trucking, aviation or steel, according to Varun Sivaram, senior director for clean energy and innovation to the US climate envoy. The sectors selected are those in which technologies were on the horizon, or in early production and could be scaled, he said.

    “We will now .. connect our companies to the suppliers, the innovators and investors and spark a constellation of activities to support that supply network so that our companies can actually meet their commitments,” said Sivaram, during a webinar Nov. 30 held by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    He gave an example of the world’s first shipment of fossil-free steel in August.

    “Now, what we need is dozens of near-zero [emissions] steel plants; they could use hydrogen for production, they could use molten oxide electrolysis,” Sivaram said. “It’s critical now that we have a proof of concept out there that we scale up to the scale where by 2030, we want to hit a tipping point for these technologies,” he said.

    Complementing aviation challenge

    The efforts are complementary to other government initiatives, he asserted, offering the example of the Biden administration’s Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge, which aims to produce 3 billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuels by 2030.

    But the set of fuels that can meet that challenge by 2030 will include those that don’t meet an 85% emission reduction threshold, Sivaram said.

    “To get to net zero by 2050, you absolutely also need the very advanced technologies that get you to 85% or more in the case of aviation,” he said. “The idea is to complement the existing initiatives so that we not only reduce emissions today, in this decade, but we put ourselves in position for the massive scale-up of next generation technologies needed to get to zero by 2050.”

    Separately, Sivaram said that to meet its goals, the coalition will need to have “visibility into infrastructure.”

    For instance, he pointed to cement companies that said 30% of their heavy-duty trucks and 100% of their new medium-duty trucks would be zero-emissions vehicles by 2030.

    “In order to actually make those trucks with zero lifecycle emissions, there’s going to need to be associated infrastructure either for hydrogen refueling, or for recharging with clean electricity,” Sivaram said.

    Some investments in those areas were included in the infrastructure legislation signed by President Joe Biden or are pending in the Build Back Better legislation, soon to be hashed out in the Senate.

    Asked about metrics for progress by participating companies, Sivaram said the coalition will develop a tracking, verifying and monitoring function.

    “At the end of the day, this is a highly quantitative set of commitments,” he said. For instance, he pointed to Amazon’s commitment to have 10% of deep-sea shipments on zero-emissions vehicles with zero-emissions fuels, and Volvo’s commitment to have 10% of its steel be near-zero carbon.