One of the challenges of weaning our society off the use of fossil fuels to heat our buildings is determining what this increased reliance on electricity mean for our utility bills and our electricity system as a whole. All low carbon futures scenarios show that whether from increased heating demand or electric vehicle charging the reliance on the electrical system will increase. That means we have to bring energy efficiency into all our energy decisions, after all the cheapest and best energy is the energy you don’t need to use!
The use of geothermal to heat and cool our buildings presents an opportunity to significantly reduce emissions while also managing electricity demand, especially during peak periods when electricity is most expensive. Geothermal, because it uses consistent heat from the ground, is more efficient than Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHPs) and therefore can play a significant role in reducing peak electricity demand. The study concluded that Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHP) can significantly reduce the cost of widespread heating electrification in Canada and recommends that GSHPs should be included in electrification policies alongside renewable power generation.
Therefore, increasing the adoption of GSHPs can bring together several goals such as energy savings for the user, infrastructure savings to the electrical grid, and achieving GHG reduction targets for all. Jurisdictions around the world such as Sweden successfully increased their GSHP systems in the early 1990s to reduce their dependency on foreign oil. Between the early 1990s and 2015, Sweden reduced the use of fossil fuels in heating by 94%, reduced electricity use by 29%, and reduced GHGs by over 90%. Sweden’s success with GSHP adoption is an example of how GSHPs can play a significant role in reducing Canada’s GHG emissions if we create a balanced policy environment that prioritizes actions that reduce GHG emissions from our energy use.
Thankfully, new utility-style business models within the geothermal sector have emerged in Canada to help address the upfront capital costs by bundling them with operational cost savings. To learn more about the GSHPs and the opportunity they present to help be a part of Canada’s decarbonization listen to the Geothermal 101 and Benefits of Electrification webinar.
By, Gabriella Kalapos, Executive Director, Clean Air Partnership and Juliet Rennick