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The pursuit of net-positive sustainability for industrial decarbonization with hybrid energy systems...

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Journal of Cleaner Production
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Signatories of the Paris Agreement are set to miss their climate targets. The net-zero pledges announced to date across many countries and private industries are insufficient to achieve carbon neutrality, which requires implementation of far-reaching and significantly scaled-up climate-positive actions. All technology options that pertain to deep decarbonization and carbon removal must be part of the mitigation portfolio. Transformative action plans must be established in which every individual/organization around the globe is an actor of changes in relation to net-zero goals. Such plans must involve governmental policy support but also encourage voluntary efforts to boost innovations, investments, initiatives, and behavioral changes. Recognition of these efforts is made quantifiable with the concepts of carbon handprint and net positivity.

This paper presents a carbon handprint perspective on characterizing the environmental benefits of hybrid energy systems (HESs)—a widely applicable solution to cleaner production leveraging the capabilities of a portfolio of low-carbon energy sources—that provide heat and electricity to industrial processes. First, the carbon handprint and net positivity concepts and their calculation approach are introduced. The state of the art of HES-enabled industrial cogeneration is then surveyed, and the greenhouse gas emission intensities of different energy sources that power HESs are compared. Next, drawing on a case study about a US chemical facility's voluntary initiative to explore replacing its fossil fuel–based cogeneration infrastructure with a clean energy–generated HES, several technically viable scenarios are evaluated—especially those with small modular nuclear reactors—to illustrate how the positive-thinking handprint approach helps encourage and inform the search for widespread influence pathways in pursuit of net-positive sustainability. Finally, current knowledge gaps in the case study are identified, and opportunities to scale up the proposed handprint-based analysis are outlined with consideration of an expanded role of HESs in fulfilling climate objectives.

It is envisioned that like-minded decision makers in the industry sector and beyond will adopt this perspective and act synergistically to enhance their environmental stewardship through voluntary actions and make greater contributions to the planet's climate future.