The ant-climate chickens have come home to roost on the US Supreme Court, but that doesn’t mean the climate fight is over. Far from it. The seeds of change have already been sown in millions of homes and businesses across the country. That’s right, humble little heat pumps are emerging as planet-saving heroes of epic proportions, and AutoGrid and Willdan have big plans for them.
Connecting Heat Pump Points: Step 1, Switching Generations
For those new to the subject, heat pumps are just electric devices that work both ways as a cooler. They can provide cooling or heating for HVAC systems (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) depending on the need – and yes, heat pumps work in cold climates too.
Now consider the idea that electric utilities could sell more kilowatts if they convinced building owners—homes, offices, businesses, or whatever—to switch from a gas- or oil-fired HVAC system to an electric heat pump.
If this is starting to sound like generational change, it’s only on the micro scale, not the macro scale envisioned by the authors of the EPA Clean Power Plan. In fact, last year the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory pointed to heat pumps as an essential element of the transition to a carbon-neutral economy.
Interestingly, some utilities are also trying to convince their electric customers to ditch propane tanks, wood stoves, and other unregulated sources in favor of heat pumps. This generational shift trend is even evident in West Virginia, which was instrumental in repealing the Clean Power Plan.
Heat Pumps Step 2, Virtual Power Plants
Electric utilities’ role in driving heat pump adoption is complicated because many of them also sell natural gas for HVAC and other appliances. However, the heat pump trend could benefit gas and electric utilities by allowing them to reduce or eliminate the need to build expensive new gas-fired “peaking” units and new gas pipelines.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but this is where virtual power plants come into play. All things being equal, more heat pumps will increase the daily load on power generation, resulting in the need for new power plants. Instead, virtual power plants allow utilities to coordinate the electricity use of thousands of individual ratepayers, leading to shifts away from normal peak usage hours.
Virtual Power Plants and Generation Switching
VPPs focus on both load switching and generation switching. The two are closely related to the generation of cheap wind and solar power.
Virtual power plants allow more intermittent energy sources, such as wind and solar power, to be transferred to the grid while reducing the need for expensive new energy storage facilities.
Virtual power plants also fit the trend of distributed energy resources. Even without the benefit of a fully developed VPP, ratepayers who own rooftop solar panels and other resources can still get cash from their local utility.
In addition, utilities are beginning to use VPPs to improve energy efficiency and increase energy efficiency in new construction.
Step 3: Energy Storage Angle, Hot Water Heater Edition
If this thing about energy storage has caught your eye, join the club. VPPs can also link small-scale energy storage devices, including electric vehicles and stationary batteries, by incentivizing their owners to participate.
All is well for those who can afford electric vehicles and lithium-ion battery packs. As for tens of millions of others, heat pump water heaters provide a more affordable way to participate.
After all, hot water is a form of energy storage. Anyone with a heat pump hot water heater can draw juice from it during periods of low electricity demand and still enjoy hot water during periods when heat pumps are desired to be turned off.
Heat pump water heaters are relatively new on the scene. Just a few years ago, the Electric Power Research Institute took a look at the topic and noted that the cost advantage over natural gas water heaters needed to be clarified.
Regardless, the global heat pump water heater market isn’t waiting for further clarification. Earlier this year, the firm Markets and Markets ran the numbers and predicted that the market would grow to $2.1 billion by 2026, up from $1.4 billion in 2020.
“Factors driving the growth of the heat pump water heater market include energy efficient technology use of non-conventional energy sources for water heating” they noted (emphasis added).
Automatic Angle in Hot Water Heat Pumps
Against this background, the well-known energy management software firm AutoGrid contacted the well-known firm Willdan to develop a scheme that deploys heat pump water heaters in virtual power plants.
The plan calls for replacing gas-fired water heaters with the goal of adding “significant levels of flexible grid capacity” to the expanding California wholesale energy market, CAISO said.
“Flexible capacity, when combined with other resources managed by AutoGrid’s VPP platform, strengthens the grid and helps reduce the likelihood of blackouts during periods of peak energy demand,” they explain.
When it comes to the overlap between VPPs and generational change, the transition is inevitable. AutoGrid aims to “provide clean, affordable and reliable power in a distributed energy world to utilities, electricity retailers, renewable energy project developers and energy service providers”.
“Partnering with Wildan places heat pump water heaters in suitable distributed energy resource (DER) applications that will have a positive impact on the environment while providing an additional revenue stream to customers,” they said.
So that. There. It should be noted that Wildan is ready to switch to pure power. This year alone, the company won decarbonization contracts with New York City, Utah State University (one of the state’s largest energy consumers) and the National Grid. The National Grid deal is particularly interesting because it includes an incentive system for “gas-saving improvements to many building systems” to cover the costs of “gas-saving projects” for low- and middle-income ratepayers.
Next Steps for Climate Action
The real concern with the US Supreme Court is that the 6-3 majority (for the record, all are appointed by Republican presidents) is clearly willing to upend the nation’s entire civil and social structure in favor of a partially theocratic state. partly authoritarian and a whole bunch of hot feelings masked in the name of “originality”.
Be it. Roe v. Given the public reaction to the Wade decision, the Court’s six Republican-appointed justices have already dug themselves and their parties into a tar pit by exposing a long history of white violence, white supremacy, and white supremacy. the anti-abortion movement.
The new Clean Power Plan decision only raises the possibility that enough new climate action allies in Congress in the November elections will have the power to neutralize the worst of the Supreme Court’s supermajority run amok — but only if enough voters accept climate change. warrior ball and run with it.
Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.
Image: Virtual power plants, renewable energy through Willdan (screenshot).
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