Don’t Blame Heat Pumps For Concerns Over This Winter’s Energy Supply In New England

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Sean Mahoney is Executive Vice President of the Conservation Law Foundation.

It’s easy to lose sight of the progress in the fight to prevent climate disasters, especially in light of the lingering legislative deadlock in Washington, DC, so it’s important to celebrate successes when we can. A resounding success here in Maine is the increase in the number of air source heat pumps that are beginning to actually reduce our reliance on fossil fuels to heat our homes and businesses.

Heat pumps draw air from the outside and use the temperature difference between the indoor air and the outdoor air to heat your home. And, because heat pumps use electricity rather than gas or fuel oil, they can be paired with solar panels or other cleaner forms of energy.

Of course, the success of heat pumps is a major concern of those who profit from the extension of our dependence on this polluting and harmful fuel for the climate. It’s no surprise, then, that oil traders in Maine joined their compatriots in other New England states last week in calling for a moratorium on the programs that have supported the conversion to heat pumps so well. This call deserves a response from my organization and our colleagues at Acadia Center, Maine Conservation Voters, the Natural Resources Council of Maine and other organizations that have worked to support these programs.

These oil dealers say continued conversion to heat pumps will lead to power outages like the ones in Texas last winter and are trying to link the use of heat pumps to recent fuel supply issues raised by the operator of the New England power grid, ISO New England. This is not surprising for an industry that has lied about the science and facts of climate change over the past 50 years.

While ISO New England has raised concerns about the electricity supply this winter, its concerns have nothing to do with the efforts of the States to install more heat pumps. Rather, concerns stem from fossil fuel issues that are contributing to climate change, including cold weather delivery and supply chain issues, as well as the continued export of natural gas to Europe where the fuel industry. natural gas is looking to take advantage of soaring prices. .

As for Texas, the comparison is not even close. The disaster in Texas last winter was The result of a system completely unprepared for the longest, coldest, snowiest weather in decades. Contractors know that pipes will freeze in the winter if they are not properly insulated, and Texas, unlike New England, has not taken this precaution. In Texas, their electrical system failure and the resulting price spikes were due to frozen components, which shut down natural gas and nuclear power plants.

That’s not to say there couldn’t be price spikes this winter in New England. It is a fact that as long as New England and Maine depend on volatile commodities like oil and gas, these industries will seek to maximize their profits during times of high demand, driving up costs to consumers. It is precisely for this reason that the transition to an electricity system that rewards and encourages energy efficiency and storage measures and uses renewable, cheap and local energy (e.g. solar, wind and geothermal) is so critical. .

We have already doubled the number of heat pumps installed in Maine in the past year, from 12,758 to 27,326. Much of this success has been the Janet Mills government’s expansion of the residential and commercial rebate program administered by Efficiency Maine Trust. While Maine still has a long way to go to eliminate our dependence on heating oil – in 2021, 60% of Maine homes are oil heated – we are making steady progress to achieve the goal install 100,000 heat pumps by 2025, a cornerstone of Maine’s Climate Action Plan.

Removing incentives and discounts for heat pumps as demanded by oil dealers would only punish those who do not have the resources to choose a cleaner, healthier, and cheaper way to heat, cool and dehumidify their homes. homes and their businesses. There is nothing fair or equitable about it. Stay the course, Maine. Dirigo.


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