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A new report commissioned by the Ontario Geothermal Association (OGA) in partnership with HRAI highlights the unique advantages of ground-source heat pumps, not just to individual residential and commercial building occupants, but to the electricity system, and therefore the entire Canadian population, as the country prepares to reduce carbon emissions from buildings through electrification. And the benefits are substantial.

The study, conducted by Dunsky Energy Consulting, found that if the heating of homes and buildings across Canada were electrified using ground source heat pumps rather than air source heat pumps (which have been assumed as the default in most electrification plans) the avoided total societal cost of electrification would be $357 billion over the next 30 years.

“Even switching just 10% of homes to ground source instead of air source heat pumps would save $36 billion,” said Stan Reitsma, President of the OGA, “which amounts to a net savings of more than $28,000 for every household choosing this option, and that’s after allowing for the cost of installing these systems.”

As in other jurisdictions, Canada’s electricity grid and power supply capacity must be capable of meeting peak demand on any given day and in Canada, where energy demand for home heating peaks on the coldest days of winter, plans to replace the country’s current reliance on carbon-based fuels (oil, natural gas and propane) with electric modes of heating have created legitimate worries about how to ensure capacity to meet those demand spikes on the coldest days of winter.

The study highlights a unique benefit of ground systems that tends to be under-appreciated by policy-makers, namely their ability to perform consistently at high efficiencies, regardless of outdoor air temperatures, due to their reliance on the more stable thermal energy stored in the ground.  Even on the coldest days of winter, the systems perform at COPs of 3.0 or higher. For this reason, if deployed at scale, they can be used to reduce peak electricity demand for the whole grid.

The Dunsky study quantifies the system-wide benefits of this technology, demonstrating that the avoided electricity system development costs will more than pay for the investment in these heating systems. “The results confirm that the goal of de-carbonizing heating in Canada can indeed be met without requiring massive electricity system upgrades,” said Reitsma, “if we start investing now in smart technologies like ground source heat pumps.”

Click HERE to download a copy of the report.