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Peak power demand management or gas plants?

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In Energy
Dec 3rd, 2023
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Peak power demand management or gas plants?

Technologies like heat pumps and electric vehicles are taking off. That’s good news for our climate but concerns have been raised about the impact of this trend on electricity supplies.

There’s no question that here in Ontario the Ford Government has been caught flat footed by the pace of these changes, which are rapidly accelerating despite the government eliminating incentives for EVs and slashing energy efficiency program budgets.

The government has instead used growth in electricity demand driven by electrification as one of its rationales for massively expanding the use of polluting gas-fired power plants, claiming the province has no other options. Of course, cancelling hundreds of renewable energy contracts and refusing to procure a single new kilowatt of grid-connected wind or solar power in the past five years hasn’t helped.

Better ways to meet growing peak electricity demand

But here’s the good news. Our new study, All-Electric Heat Pumps and Peak Mitigation Technologiesfinds that there is a lot that can be done to significantly reduce the impact of heat pumps on our winter peak hour electricity demand.

Storing heat

Using thermal storage devices that use ceramic bricks to retain heat generated during off-peak hours can reduce the need for heat pump operation during our winter peak electricity demand hour by 80%. That’s a lot of gas plant output avoided simply by helping people install a technology alongside heat pumps that is already in use in places like Quebec and Nova Scotia.

Using batteries

Similarly, home-based battery packs like a Tesla Powerwall can be charged up when electricity demand is low and used to run a heat pump during high demand periods. These types of battery packs can keep a heat pump running for up to 2.5 hours.

Pairing up with EVs

Our report also finds important synergies between growing heat pump use and EVs, noting that EVs (e.g., Ford F-150 Lightning) combined with bidirectional charging could power our heat pumps for up to 9 hours..

Pulling heat and cool from the ground

Finally, encouraging use of ground source rather than air source heat pumps can cut a heat pump’s electricity demand by half. These systems, which exploit steady ground temperatures, are ideal for rural homes that may rely on expensive and polluting propane or fuel oil and could be widely embraced in new subdivision developments.

Even better news: This is a lower cost solution!

The report calculates that relying on these solutions to address growing electricity demand would provide our province with annual savings of up to $2,000 per device installation compared to the cost of building new wind and storage projects to meet the power needs of heat pumps. In other words, the province will come out ahead by paying power consumers to install energy storage devices instead of paying to expand its electricity generation system. And that is before we factor in the climate and health savings which we will realize by reducing our reliance on polluting gas plants.

A government that is serious about lowering electricity bills will help people in this province adopt these money saving solutions. One that doesn’t take climate change seriously and is under the thumb of big fossil fuel interests, will not.

To read our new report please click here.

Angela Bischoff, Director

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