Ontario winters may be icy, but The Atmospheric Fund’s latest research on heat pumps reveals exciting carbon reduction potential, even when outdoor temperatures reach -25 Celsius. The Pumping Energy Savings report showed that with high uptake from building owners, we could cut almost 1.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions in electrically heated buildings over the next 10 years.
Heat pumps provide heating, cooling, and hot water with a fraction of the energy used by conventional systems. Based on current market conditions, electrically heated multi-unit residential buildings are a promising place to research and demonstrate heat pump retrofits. These buildings can achieve substantial dollar savings while avoiding fuel switching to climate-harming natural gas. Tackling this part of Ontario’s building stock first is especially important because a disproportionate share of low-income families live in older electrically heated buildings with out-dated heating and cooling systems.
Despite impressive savings potential for building owners and increased comfort for residents, we still have a long way to go before heat pumps are widely adopted. The report also looked at market barriers and revealed significant challenges. The high upfront costs relative to conventional heating systems and split incentives create financial barriers. There is also limited awareness, capacity, and interest from property owners, operators, and the HVAC industry. The lack of awareness results in unfounded concerns about the reliability of the technology.
TAF’s research identifies 13 key recommendations to accelerate the adoption of heat pumps in Ontario to meet our conservation goals:
Research, development and demonstration
- Support demonstration projects to raise awareness of the technical and financial case and help kick-start the heat pump retrofit market.
- Explore program and policy options for heat pump retrofits of gas-heated buildings.
- Explore development of an Automated Demand Response (ADR) program for heat pumps.
Incentives and financing
- Add marketing of heat pumps to marketing materials from the IESO and other local distribution companies, with a priority focus on electrically heated multi-residential buildings.
- Ensure electrically heated multi-residential buildings have access to suitable retrofit financing options.
- Provide enhanced incentives for electrically heated building retrofits.
- Promote best in-class heat pumps by scaling and/or aligning incentives with heat pump efficiency.
- Explore the potential for bulk purchasing programming ensuring fair market conditions are a key tenet of any such consideration.
Capacity building & quality assurance
- Build industry knowledge, capacity, and interest for the electrically heated multi-residential building heat pump retrofit opportunity.
- Establish a streamlined Measurement & Verification protocol.
- Incorporate robust quality management strategies in any new incentive programs.
- Explore options for new Ontario Building Code renovation requirements to drive heat pump adoption.
- Develop a strategy for addressing split incentives in suite-or-sub-metered buildings.
What’s next for our work on heat pumps? As part of TAF’s TowerWise retrofit program, the Pumping Energy Savings team will continue to address barriers to heat pump adoption in electrically heated buildings through demonstration projects, development of measurement and verification guidelines, exploring financing options, and scale-up strategies. Stay tuned!
Read the full report.
The Pumping Energy Savings project was made possible through the financial support of the Independent Electricity System Operator.