There is a significant opportunity to decarbonise the textiles and apparel sector by shifting heat production away from inefficient and carbon-intensive fossil fuels to more efficient, clean electrified processes where low or zero-carbon electricity is used, a new study has underlined.
The Report: The study, Electrification of Heating in the Textile Industry: A Techno-Economic Analysis for China, Japan, and Taiwan, has been published by Global Efficiency Intelligence in collaboration with Textile Sustainability Hub. The authors of the report are Ali Hasanbeigi and Jibran Zuberi.
- The project was supportted by Patagonia (the main funder) with supplemental funding contributions from the Outdoor Industry Association, REI, New Balance, Burton, and Gore.
The Context: A key challenge for the textiles industry in lowering its carbon footprint is its heavy reliance on thermal energy—steam and hot water—for its industrial processes.
- Heating typically represents over half of its total energy demand in the textiles industry in China, Japan, and Taiwan, which were the economies studied.
- In textile plants, this heat is often delivered as steam that is primarily generated by combustion boilers using fossil fuels.
A significant amount of thermal energy is lost during steam generation and distribution (around 25%-30%).
The Opportunity: Based on careful investigation of the different heat demand profiles in the textile processes and the electrification technologies available in the marketplace to meet those heating needs, the scientists have identified and analysed four separate electrification pathways with the ability to lower the CO2 footprint of the textiles industry. The four electrification technology pathways analysed are:
- Industrial heat pumps (only for the textile wet-processing industry).
- Electric steam boilers (for the entire textiles industry).
- Electric thermal oil boilers (for the entire textiles industry).
- Electric processing equipment (only for seven textile wet-processing processes).
The Findings: The results show that electrification can substantially decrease the total annual final energy demand in the textiles industry in these three economies under all four electrification technology pathways.
- For example, the total technical annual energy saving potential through the application of industrial heat pumps in textile wet-processing plants (assuming a 100% adoption rate) is estimated to be around 270, 7.0, and 7.3 petajoules (PJ) per year in China, Japan, and Taiwan, respectively.
- This is equal to around one-third of the total fuel used in the textiles industry in these three economies.
- The substantial reduction in annual final energy demand is due to the increase in energy efficiency with electrified heating systems and the reduction in energy losses that happen in conventional combustion heating systems.
- The CO2 emissions impact resulting from the electrification is highly dependent on the carbon intensity of the electricity used with the electrified process.
- The researchers quantified the CO2 emissions reductions resulting from electrification under each of the four electrification technology pathways in 2050.
- For example, the total annual CO2 emissions reduction potential from 100% adoption of electric steam boilers or industrial heat pumps in the Chinese textiles industry is around 29.8 and 24.9 million tonne (Mt) CO2 per year in 2050, respectively.
- These are equal to approximately 59% and 49% of total fuel-related annual CO2 emissions from the textiles industry in China in 2021.
- If the average national grid electricity is used, only electrification of the textiles industry through industrial heat pumps can result in CO2 emissions reduction in 2030 in all three economies. This is because of the substantial reduction in energy use that these heat pumps provide.
- Electrification of wet processes can result in CO2 emissions reduction in 2030 in Taiwan and Japan, but not in China, a disparity that reflects the greater carbon intensity of the grid in China compared to the other two economies.
- Electrification of steam boilers and electric thermal oil boilers could initially lead to an increase in annual CO2 emissions in all three economies in 2030. This is because the assumed average electricity grid emission intensity for these three economies in 2030 will be high and the grid is not decarbonised enough to result in CO2 emissions reduction from the electrification of boilers despite the reduction in final energy use.
- However, electrification is projected to result in a substantial reduction in annual CO2 emissions in 2040 and 2050 under all electrification technology pathways as the grid decarbonizes and becomes carbon neutral in 2050.