Beneficial Electrification of Space Heating
RAP’s definition of beneficial electrification asserts that an electrified end use must satisfy at least one of the following conditions, without adversely affecting the other two:
- Saves consumers money over the long run;
- Enables better grid management; and
- Reduces negative environmental impacts.
Because space heating represents such a sizable proportion of energy use in the average U.S. home, it is a key focus for beneficial electrification efforts. This paper, the second in RAP’s Electrification in the Public Interest Series, explores best practices and considerations for making space heating beneficial.
Most space heating currently relies on direct use of fossil fuels, such as heating oil, propane, and natural gas. Switching to electric heat, especially with new heat pump technology, will very often meet one or more of the conditions outlined above. Beneficial electrification of space heating represents multiple opportunities: for consumers to save on their total energy bills by switching to a more efficient heating technology (depending on the housing type and region, as this paper explores); for utilities and grid operators to secure valuable grid management benefits; and for significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
This paper examines the variety of technology options for electrification of space heating, considers their applications in various contexts, examines our beneficial electrification conditions as they apply to space heating, and offers strategies for achieving the benefits we identify.