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Energy and Emissions Savings Potential of Renewable Thermal Technologies in Houston, Texas

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Renewable Thermal Technologies (RTT), especially heat pumps paired with solar, have the potential to dramatically decrease energy consumption and by extension energy emissions. Using information from the Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECs), Houston's Climate Action Plan, and our own report on Pathways for Reducing Energy Burdens in Harris County, the Texas Energy Poverty Research Institute (TEPRI) analyzed the residential energy consumption and carbon emission by end-use and fuel type. From there, we investigated how much air-source heat pumps and ground-source heat pumps could lower both electricity and natural gas consumption and carbon emissions. Then, we investigated how much solar will be needed to completely decarbonize electricity under the current paradigm versus how much would be required under the proposed heat pump paradigm.

We found that heat pumps can reduce total residential energy usage by up to 54%, reduce residential emissions by up to 53%, and virtually eliminate residential natural gas consumption and emissions. Furthermore, even with the increased demand for electricity from the heat pumps, electricity consumption also decreases by up to 38%, which reduces the amount of solar needed to decarbonize electricity by 38% as well.

These results highlight the importance of increasing the adoption of these technologies by increasing awareness and expanding energy efficiency programs. We believe that existing efficiency programs can be an effective vehicle for implementing these technologies. Furthermore, increasing community and contractor engagement to tell consumers about the products and also teach contractors how to install them are needed. While the adoption of RTTs faces many obstacles, our report shows that the benefits are worth it.

This report was authored by Erick C. Jones Jr., Dana Harmon, and Tam Kemabonta and submitted to the Yale Center for Business and the Environment as part of their work with the Renewable Thermal Alliance.

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