A key and novel aspect of these partnerships is the coordinated effort to build and establish common infrastructures. Think, a shared hydrogen storage and transport system or a dedicated solar + storage site for the cluster. The transition to net zero is likely to be capital intensive, especially for enabling infrastructure, which is estimated to require approximately $4.2 trillion in investment over the next 30 years, compared to an estimated $2.1 trillion for production assets. Partnering in a cluster enables the sharing of infrastructure development and operational costs among corporate and public partners.
Even in light of the importance of national-level net-zero commitments and supporting policies, implementation will occur at a regional level. Each region across the globe presents a unique mix of industries, infrastructure, resources, policies, and workforce – offering “optionality” for NZICs in a region. While a broad selection of technologies is available, not all of them may be cost effective or even feasible to implement in a given region. The regional focus on decarbonization is an important characteristic of NZICs to highlight. Optionality enables each industry and region to embark on a decarbonization path that is safest, most affordable, and equitable for their communities
Beyond GHG emission reductions, the path to net zero allows industrial clusters to consider solutions that bring maximum economic and social benefits to the region. Traditionally underserved communities can benefit from the transition to net zero, but the equitable distribution of costs and benefits requires deliberate planning. NZICs in the early stages of planning have the unique opportunity to involve the community in cluster formation, such as including the community in the earliest discussions, creating community benefits plans, and integrating community partners at every level of the cluster governance structure.
This formal, concerted effort to achieve net-zero emissions not only includes the private business and industries, but also partnerships with public entities in the region. This might include local government, non-profit organizations, the local workforce, and research and academia. Collaboration here helps the cluster reach its emission goals. Public-private cooperation is needed to optimize financing, overcome policy barriers, and increase the skill levels of the local workforce.