Converting every single-family home in Texas from natural gas to electric heating would reduce homeowner utility bills by as much as US$450 per year, slash emissions, and be nothing the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) system couldn’t handle, says a recent paper from an Austin-based energy research non-profit.
“All the scenarios resulted in annual household utility bill savings—including the two in which annual electricity demand increased—ranging from $57.82 for the standard efficiency heat pump and typical meteorological year, to $451.90 for the high-efficiency heat pump and 2011 extreme weather year,” said study co-author Joshua Rhodes, a research fellow at the University of Austin Energy Institute.
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“The goal and motivation were to put bounding on some of the claims that have been made about electrification: that if we electrify a lot of different end uses or sectors of the economy…power demand of the grid would double,” he told Greentech Media.
So Rhodes and co-author Philip White ran 80,000 simulations across six scenarios to determine “the impact of replacing natural gas furnaces with electric heat pumps in homes across the ERCOT service territory,” assessing the implications for individual ratepayers, the grid, and the state’s carbon footprint. The news was good on all fronts.
In addition to cost savings, switching to electric heat produced “CO2 reductions ranging from 2.6 million tonnes with a standard efficiency heat pump and typical meteorological year, to 13.8 million tonnes with the high-efficiency heat pump in 2011-year weather,” Greentech writes. And the scenarios also pointed to a far more resilient grid: “Because heat pumps provide both high-efficiency space heating and cooling, in the scenario with ‘superior efficiency’ heat pumps, the summer peak drops by nearly 24% to 54 gigawatts, compared to ERCOT’s 71-gigawatt 2016 summer peak.”
While winter peak electricity demand would increase, “up by 22.73% to 81 gigawatts with standard efficiency heat pumps and up by 10.6% to 73 gigawatts with high-efficiency heat pumps,” the shift would not require “a wholesale rethinking of how the grid would have to operate,” Rhodes said.
Greentech notes that “the study presented what are likely conservative estimates of the potential for heat pumps to reduce carbon pollution and lower peak electricity demand,” since the installed systems “will become cleaner as more zero-carbon wind and solar power are added to the ERCOT grid.”
Rhodes said installers will be a key part of the effort to “jump-start the market for high-efficiency, all-electric heating,” since homeowners typically don’t know very much about their HVAC systems and will rely on their contractors’ advice.
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