As Ontario continues to think through effective climate change mitigation strategies, new efforts and initiatives will need to be innovative and involve customers across the province if meaningful carbon emission cuts are to be achieved. Given that buildings and homes account for almost a quarter of the province’s carbon emissions, it makes sense that many of these efforts should be concentrated on them, specifically home heating solutions, and should involve homeowners directly.
Future of Home Heating
As more than 90 per cent of the province’s electricity supply is carbon-free, proposed solutions to decarbonize tend to focus on electrification of buildings across the province. A new study, The Future of Home Heating, conducted by MaRS’ Advanced Energy Center (AEC) in collaboration with Enbridge Gas Distribution Inc. (Enbridge), demonstrates that, when it comes to home heating in the province, a smart, hybrid dual fuel option offers a viable pathway to electrification.
Over the last year, AEC and Enbridge have been working with a steering committee composed of Natural Resources Canada, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), Alectra Utilities and The Atmospheric Fund, to compare the economic, electrical demand and emission-reducing performance of different electrification options for heating. The report looked at three different scenarios each using air source heat pumps (ASHP) in both retrofit and new homes. The scenarios included, one full-electric scenario using electric resistance heaters as a supplemental heat source, and two hybrid scenarios using gas appliances as backup.
The study concludes that there are three primary reasons why a hybrid option can help achieve cost-effective emissions reductions:
- Cost-Effective Electrification for Ratepayers: Hybrid scenarios combine the low-cost of natural gas, the low carbon content of electricity, and the high performance of heat pumps to provide a pathway to electrification that keeps home energy costs low.
- Minimize Peak Electricity Demands: A hybrid scenario could operate without increasing peak electricity demand on the grid, thus avoiding the need for any electricity grid upgrades.
- Carbon Emissions Reductions: Although the hybrid scenarios still utilize natural gas, deep carbon emission reductions are achievable with smart controls and operating strategies.
While hybrid air source heat pumps solutions offer a range of benefits to Ontarians and the system at large, the report finds that, in order to fully take advantage of these benefits, smart controls, as well as new price structures, will be needed. For example, at current energy rates in the province, all three scenarios result in higher operating costs than if a household used today’s approach to high-efficiency gas appliances dedicated to meeting heating demands. Our model shows that electricity would need to be priced at 6c/kWh in order to incentive homeowners to run a heat pump over a gas appliance. This can be addressed with appropriate incentives and rate designs tailored to encourage air source heat pumpsoperation during periods of low-carbon electricity.
Hybrid heating systems using air source heat pumps can help homeowners and the province maximize cost savings, energy savings and achieve meaningful cuts in carbon emissions. However, simply providing homeowners with a hybrid air source heat pumps will not be enough. To find out more about how the full benefits of hybrid heating technologies can be untapped.
- Read the full report
- Supplemental information
- For more information, please contact Sarah Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sarah Martin is a Senior Associate at the Advanced Energy Centre (AEC) at MaRS. In her role, Sarah works with the centre’s partners and key industry players to address the barriers to adopting innovation in the energy sector. She helps effectively communicate the AEC’s value as a neutral third party in this space, developing thought leadership and sector insights. This blog was originally published on the MaRS website.