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Too good to be true, but it is

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In Climate Change
Jan 19th, 2022
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By Angela Bischoff, Director of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance

It seems too good to be true. Switching to an air-source heat pump can cut your electricity costs by more than $2,000 a year and you will be slashing the greenhouse gas pollution that results from heating and cooling your home at the same time.

So what’s the catch? These figures apply to homes that use electricity for heating, such as baseboard heaters or electric furnaces. And the upfront cost of heat pumps can be daunting, despite the fact that for an electrically heated home, they can pay for themselves with energy cost savings in three to ten years.

There are roughly 450,000 homes that use electric heating in Ontario. A disproportionate number of the residents of these homes struggle to pay their power bills: A whopping 35-40% of households seeking Ontario Energy Board (OEB) assistance with paying electricity bills through the Ontario
Electricity Support Program live in electrically heated homes.

So putting these facts together, we see a tremendous opportunity: Switching electrically heated homes to air-source heat pumps will cut greenhouse gas pollution by 4 megatonnes per year if we convert all electrically heated homes, reduce energy poverty and allow us to scale up a new technology with tremendous promise to address a key source of climate damaging pollution: homes and buildings.

That’s why we are calling on the Ontario Government to offer no down payment, zero-interest loans for the installation of heat pumps in electrically heated homes. The Ford government has already acknowledged that heat pumps are a vital technology to scale up in its Climate Plan, so this is its chance to walk its talk by working with utilities to help Ontarians make the switch.

Because heat pumps can deliver two to three times more heat for every unit of energy they use compared to electric baseboards, they are an ideal way to reduce the impact of heating and cooling buildings and to reduce the need to fire up polluting gas plants. In fact, we could cut our gas-fired electricity generation by 18% by switching all our electrically heated homes to heat pumps.

There is really no downside to working quickly to shift electrically heated homes to heat pumps. But it will take leadership and a willingness by the provincial government to use its financial leverage to make it easy for Ontarians to make the switch. Instead of helping people to pay their electricity bills, we could help them slash those bills instead. Instead of paying gas plant operators for more polluting power, we can cut demand for that power and help save our climate. We just need the government to get with the program.

Please send Ontario Energy Minister Todd Smith a message calling on him to quickly establish a no down payment, zero-interest loan program to help electrically heated homes convert to air source heat pumps.

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