Renewable Thermal Collaborative Selected as Awardee of $10 Million Climate Challenge to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the U.S.

Funding Will Help Increase Industrial Renewable Thermal Energy 150 Percent and Slash Industrial Thermal Emissions 30% by 2030.

2030 Climate Challenge Announcement image


Marc Moorghen, [email protected]

Chicago, Illinois - June 22, 2021 – Today, Lever for Change announced the Renewable Thermal Collaborative (RTC) as the recipient of the $10 million 2030 Climate Challenge, an award sponsored by an anonymous donor to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Created and jointly managed by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), David Gardiner and Associates (DGA), and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), RTC is the first and only coalition of renewable energy buyers, sellers, and service providers dedicated to scaling renewable thermal energy solutions. This funding will help RTC slash industrial thermal emissions 30% over the next decade, which in 2030 is equivalent to the emissions of 63 coal-fired power plants in one year, or over 54 million passenger vehicles driven for one year. (Source: EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator)

The Challenge was managed by Lever for Change, a nonprofit affiliate of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation that helps donors find and fund solutions to the world’s greatest challenges, including racial and gender equity, economic development, and climate change.

“The Renewal Thermal Collaborative has the ambitious goal of reducing industrial thermal emissions, which, unlike other sectors of the economy, are projected to grow by 10.3% and become the second largest source of emissions in the U.S. by 2030,” said Cecilia Conrad, CEO of Lever for Change. “We are particularly excited by the Collaborative’s potential to build consensus, create the multi-stakeholder community needed to overcome the current barriers blocking cost-effective renewable thermal solutions, and educate policymakers. Ultimately, we believe that this project will trigger system changes that will lead to full-sector decarbonization by 2050.”

The U.S. currently has the second highest amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Thermal energy for industrial production generates 12.5% of those emissions—more than the entire agricultural sector. Tackling this neglected wedge of emissions is critical. Yet, cost-effective renewable thermal energy solutions are largely unavailable.

The primary barriers impeding progress are an inadequate policy framework, technology that is undeveloped or too costly, and a lack of market and financing solutions. RTC will drive investments in technology, markets, and policy to increase thermal energy and reduce U.S. industrial thermal emissions by 30% by 2030 to decarbonize industrial heat at the scale and speed needed to put us on a pathway to fully decarbonize by 2050.

“The best initiatives aim to address big problems with bold targets and credible metrics to track progress. The Renewable Thermal Collaborative does all of these things,” said Carter Roberts, President and CEO of WWF. “It will slash the growing but largely neglected emissions from industrial thermal energy use – without which there is no credible path to achieving our Paris Agreement targets. And it sets an ambitious goal of a 30 percent emissions cut by 2030, with a stepwise plan to get there over the next nine years. WWF is proud to partner with C2ES and David Gardiner and Associates on this initiative.”

The 2030 Climate Challenge was launched in April 2020. Sixty-eight proposals were evaluated during a three-month process that included peer reviews, as well as a final review by an expert panel of more than 45 climate experts from the academic, philanthropic, and private sectors. Applications were evaluated based on four criteria: whether they were impactful, feasible, scalable, and durable. Five teams were named finalists in January 2021 and each worked with a team of technical experts to strengthen, revise, and re-submit their proposed solutions.

In addition to RTC, the other finalists of the Challenge included:

  • Building with Biomass: Using Buildings to Sequester Carbon at Gigaton-Scale: The Carbon Leadership Forum, in partnership with Endeavour Center, University of Colorado Boulder, and Building Transparency, proposes to convert buildings to carbon sinks by storing carbon in buildings using biogenic materials and reducing carbon emissions in all other building materials.
  • Upgrade Everyone: The First Gigawatt of Equitable Virtual Power Plants: Solar United Neighbors, in partnership with Liberty Homes, Clean Energy Works, National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Resource Media proposes to accelerate proven inclusive utility investment to deploy residential energy efficiency upgrades to achieve greater energy system equity and 50% greenhouse gas reduction in communities served by partner utilities in a dozen states by 2025.
  • Scale Zero: Healthy, Zero-Emission, Affordable Housing for All: RMI, in partnership with Emerald Cities Collaborative, NYCEEC, Association for Energy Affordability, and Enterprise Community Partners, will decarbonize the nation’s building sector through a two-pronged campaign focused on policy and retrofits of affordable multifamily housing in five states.
  • Turning Point: Driving Southeast Transportation Electrification: The World Resources Institute, Electrification Coalition, EVHybridNoire, and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy will drive Southeast transportation electrification to increase EV market share to 50% and reduce annual CO2 emissions by 50 million tonnes by 2030.

All of the finalists for the 2030 Climate Challenge will be featured in Lever for Change’s Bold Solutions Network, which seeks to match outstanding nonprofits and social enterprises from its competitions with additional donors and funding.

Lever for Change is calling on additional philanthropists to join efforts to fully fund all five of the finalists that were identified during this Challenge. Interested donors may contact Dana Rice, Vice President of Philanthropy.

More information on the 2030 Climate Challenge can be found at


Renewal Thermal Collaborative

The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), David Gardiner and Associates (DGA), and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) founded the Renewal Thermal Collaborative (RTC) in 2017 to address the long-overlooked climate challenge of the heating and cooling footprint. The RTC is the leading coalition for organizations that are committed to scaling up renewable heating and cooling. The RTC has more than 20 large energy buyers representing approximately $1.3 trillion in market capital. The RTC also includes many renewable thermal suppliers and more than 60 energy practitioners from various sectors.

Lever for Change

Lever for Change, a nonprofit affiliate of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, helps donors to find and fund solutions to the world’s greatest challenges, ranging from racial and gender equity to economic development and climate change. Building on the success of the MacArthur Foundation’s $100 million competition, 100&Change, Lever for Change customizes and manages open and transparent competitions for donors. In addition, the organization matches donors with nonprofits and social enterprises in its Bold Solutions Network, which includes solutions to significant social challenges that were highly ranked after rigorous evaluation in one of Lever for Change’s competitions. The organization has developed and managed nine competitions, ranging in size from $10 million to $100 million, unlocking $582 million in funding for high-impact solutions and strengthening dozens of top organizations. For more information, visit

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