Renewable Thermal Energy Systems: Systemic Challenges and Transformational Policies (Report 2)

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Two important challenges for RTES are the need for significant further innovation and deployment, particularly in the United States. In the face of continued success of other renewable energy technologies, such as solar photovoltaics (PV) and land-based wind energy for electricity, it is worthwhile to evaluate the current state of select RTES technologies in the context of technology innovation systems and energy transitions. This report marks a departure from the existing body of research we are aware of and have contributed to relating to RTES applications for industrial process heat in the United States. Our objectives for this report are fourfold: 1) Begin considering the challenges of RTES deployment in the United States through application of socio-technical and transitions frameworks; 2) Begin applying the theory of RTES as configurational technology innovation systems in the United States and for industrial process heat specifically; 3) Review RTES innovation, policies, and market formation activities in the contexts of Objectives 1 and 2; 4) Identify future paths for RTES research. Ultimately, the challenges associated with scaling the deployment of RTES in the United States are related to the need to develop a well-functioning innovation system that can overcome resistance from a highly stable socio-technical regime within a shrinking window of time to address the climate crisis, U.S. industrial competitiveness, and volatile energy commodity price shocks. Current efforts toward scaling for RTES applications in industry and buildings emphasize the need for further cost reductions, but not for interventions that support actors and their interactions and that increase the legitimacy of the technologies. As a result, there are significant opportunities to analyze the social contexts of RTES that can then be used to inform the design of effective, transformational policy portfolios.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages53
StatePublished - 2023

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-7A40-83020


  • energy policy
  • innovation challenges
  • renewable thermal systems


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