DAVOS-KLOSTERS, Switzerland –Four leading industrial clusters in the Netherlands, Belgium and the U.S. today announced they are working together with the World Economic Forum to reduce their carbon emissions faster through the “Transitioning Industrial Clusters towards Net Zero” initiative. The World Economic Forum is collaborating with Accenture (NYSE: ACN) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) on this initiative.
Launched at COP26 November 2021, the initiative aims to accelerate the decarbonization of hard-to-abate industrial sectors, while maximizing job creation and economic competitiveness. The approach focuses on building cross-industry and cross-cluster partnerships to better implement low-carbon technologies — as in the case of the regionally developed Basque Hydrogen Corridor — and on accessing public funding frameworks and blended-finance options for clusters’ decarbonization projects.
Under this initiative, the World Economic Forum, working closely with Accenture and EPRI as knowledge partners, connects private and public stakeholders to assess how to meet individual and collective decarbonization goals, fosters new enabling policies and provides guidance and support for local community engagement.
Industrial clusters are geographic regions where industrial companies are concentrated, making them an attractive target for impactful emissions reduction strategies. Since industrial assets are located in close proximity to each other, sharing of infrastructure (such as CO2 and hydrogen pipelines or renewable energy assets), financial and operational risks, and natural and human resources becomes possible. This also provides opportunities to deploy and scale new green technologies, such as hydrogen and the capture, utilization, and storage of carbon for industrial applications, enabling a systemic approach to emissions reduction.
The clusters joining the initiative are:
- Brightlands Circular Space, together with Brightlands Chemelot Campus, Chemelot and the Chemelot Circular Hub in Geleen, Netherlands It will help accelerate the energy transition and circular economy.
- H2Houston Hub, formed through the Center for Houston’s Future and encompassing more than 100 organizations and companies. It will leverage the Houston area’s position as the U.S.’s largest hydrogen producer and consumer, and use innovation and scale to reduce the cost of clean hydrogen and emissions.
- Ohio Clean Hydrogen Hub Alliance, with approximately 100 corporate, governmental and community organization members, will lead the region’s campaign to establish a clean hydrogen hub in the state of Ohio and the Ohio River Valley.
- Port of Antwerp-Bruges, Europe’s second-largest port. It will drive the circular economy and energy transition.
These four large industrial emissions centers, involving oil and gas extraction and processing, shipping, heavy-duty transportation, chemicals and other sectors, currently account for CO2 emissions of 296 million metric tonnes per year – greater than the annual emissions of Poland. They employ more than 470,000 people and represent an annual gross domestic product (GDP) contribution of $135 billion.
“Sharing infrastructure, maximizing synergies and expanding use of circularity principles across industries will be critical in reducing emissions, while maintaining industrial competitiveness and creating opportunities for employment in these industrial heartlands,” said Melissa Stark, a managing director and Global Lead for Renewables and Energy Transition Services, Accenture. “We are keen to help rapidly expand this program and urge industrial clusters in those regions committed to net zero to join us. Accenture brings its global footprint and experience in digital, sustainability and the energy transition to this project, working closely with the World Economic Forum and EPRI to deploy a cross-technology approach anchored on innovation, partnership, policy, and financing strategies.”
The four new clusters join four others in the U.K. (Zero Carbon Humber and Hynet North West), Australia (Kwinana Industries Council), and Spain (Basque Net-Zero Industrial Supercluster), which were part of the initial launch of the initiative. Based on metrics provided by each cluster, all eight clusters could potentially save more than 334 million tonnes of CO2 – more than the equivalent annual emissions output of France. They could also create and protect 1.1 million jobs and contribute $182 billion to regional GDP.
“The Ohio Clean Hydrogen Hub Alliance seeks to locate a clean hydrogen hub in the state of Ohio and the Ohio River Valley, leading to the eventual decarbonization of much of the transportation, electricity, industrial and heating sectors,” said Kirt Conrad, Co-Founder, Ohio Clean Hydrogen Alliance and Chief Executive Officer, Stark Area Regional Transit Authority. “Investment into a clean hydrogen hub in Ohio will help create massive economic, environmental and health benefits for the state and its citizens.”
“With our focus on becoming the premier circular ecosystem in Europe, it is of upmost importance that we foster competitive collaboration between the companies in our cluster as well as with other global clusters,” said Lia Voermans, Director, Brightlands Circular Space. “We believe that this initiative provides a gateway to access the best practices and processes supporting industrial decarbonization.”
The new clusters are already actively advancing their decarbonization journey. For instance, the Port of Antwerp-Bruges is starting to convert hydrogen into sustainable raw materials and fuel for the port’s chemical sector, whereas the Ohio Clean Hydrogen Hub Alliance has developed hydrogen fuel cell buses which tour around the U.S., educating transit authorities on the potential and viability of clean transportation. However, to achieve net-zero emissions, these efforts must be scaled up. Often, financial mechanisms, rather than technology, are the main roadblock, and policy frameworks to support valuable future technologies are lacking. As value chains are transformed, the creation of new partnerships will be key.
“The Houston region has the talent, expertise and infrastructure needed to lead the global energy transition to a low-carbon world,” said Brett Perlman, Chief Executive Officer of the Center for Houston’s Future. “Clean hydrogen, alongside carbon capture, use, and storage are among the key technology areas where Houston is set up to succeed and can be an example to other leading energy economies around the world.”
“The Port of Antwerp-Bruges hosts Europe’s largest chemical cluster and supports the European Green Deal to become climate neutral by 2050,” said Jacques Vandermeiren, Chief Executive Officer, Port of Antwerp. “To reach this goal we will all have to work together with respect for individual company needs, industry characteristics and timing. The ‘Transitioning Industrial Clusters towards Net Zero’ initiative, is a means to inspire and incentivize companies to share best practices in our common pursuit of staying well below 2°C.”
In addition to the eight clusters currently involved in the initiative, more than a dozen in the U.S., Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region are also in the process of joining. The aim is to build a community of 100 global industrial clusters to accelerate industrial decarbonization. To learn more or to participate in the cluster initiative, visit https://initiatives.weforum.org/transitioning-industrial-clusters/home.
Accenture is a global professional services company with leading capabilities in digital, cloud and security. Combining unmatched experience and specialized skills across more than 40 industries, we offer Strategy and Consulting, Technology and Operations services and Accenture Song—all powered by the world’s largest network of Advanced Technology and Intelligent Operations centers. Our 699,000 people deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity every day, serving clients in more than 120 countries. We embrace the power of change to create value and shared success for our clients, people, shareholders, partners and communities. Visit us at accenture.com.
Founded in 1972, EPRI is the world’s preeminent independent, non-profit energy research and development organization, with offices around the world. EPRI’s trusted experts collaborate with more than 450 companies in 45 countries, driving innovation to ensure the public has clean, safe, reliable, affordable, and equitable access to electricity across the globe. Together, we are shaping the future of energy.
About World Economic Forum
The World Economic Forum, committed to improving the state of the world, is the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation. The Forum engages the foremost political, business and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas. (www.weforum.org).