More heat pumps needed to hit building decarbonization targets: Transition Accelerator

Canada would need to install an additional 229,000 heat pumps and 82,600 heat pump water heaters between 2024 and 2026 to get on track to 100 per cent adoption by 2050.

With heat pumps and heat pump water heaters, “we are only at the beginning of the adoption of these technologies in the residential sector,” according to Aurélie Vérin and Mathieu Poirier. Saltwater photo by Ryan Taplin.

This article was published by The Energy Mix on March 14, 2024.

Despite faster uptake of home heat pumps, the current pace of adoption is too slow to electrify space heating in all Canadian households by 2100, much less the 2050 target date for bringing the country to net-zero emissions, the Transition Accelerator’s Building Decarbonization Alliance warns in a report released last month.

Rather than assessing current policy support for building decarbonization, the report looks at the rate of progress that would be needed to achieve the country’s climate targets, the alliance explains. With the buildings sector accounting for 18 per cent of Canadian emissions, and 77 per cent of that attributed to fossil fuels used in space and water heating, the analysis focuses in on two technologies: heat pumps, and heat pump water heaters. It relies an “S-curve”, a tool modellers use to show what rapid adoption of a new technology might look like, to “underline the disparity between historical rates of change and the accelerated rates needed for effective climate action.”

To hit those markers over the next two decades, explain co-authors Aurélie Vérin and Mathieu Poirier, senior policy analyst and director of policy with the alliance, “the first years are critical to determining the pace for adoption.”

It isn’t uncommon for emerging technologies to hit an S-curve in their adoption: a chart in the report shows how it’s happened since 1900 for a dozen or more new advances, from land lines and flush toilets to colour TVs and smart phones. With heat pumps and heat pump water heaters, “we are only at the beginning of the adoption of these technologies in the residential sector,” Vérin and Poirier write.

The problem, at the moment, is that the country would need to install an additional 229,000 heat pumps and 82,600 heat pump water heaters between 2024 and 2026 to get on track to 100 per cent adoption by 2050.

“While there will be slow progress during the early years, signifying their gradual adoption, this will be followed by rapid increase in uptake, resulting in widespread mass-market adoption, and eventually reaching a saturation point as the market matures,” the report says. However, assuming replacement cycles of 15 years for most space heating equipment and 10 years for water heaters, the two devices would have to hit 100 per cent of new sales by 2035 and 2040, respectively, to approach full replacement by 2050.

The 19-page report includes regional breakdowns for Canadian provinces and the territories, and each page ends with the same call to action:

“These first years are critical as they will determine the pace for adoption for the next two decades. The transition must accelerate to improve the chances of successfully meeting net zero emissions by 2050.”

Facebook Comments

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*