recent CT Mirror op-ed presents a misleading picture of the impact that electric heat pumps will have on Connecticut’s electricity system.

Moving customers off fossil gas by electrifying homes and businesses with appliances such as heat pumps will be a key component of achieving Connecticut’s climate and clean energy requirements. While major investments in the grid will be necessary over the coming decades, we must move quickly to upgrade the grid while simultaneously installing heat pumps, moving to electric vehicles, and deploying other advanced clean energy technologies.

The claim that “[too] many heat pumps would bring grid failure” to Connecticut is a misleading message at a time when there is an urgent need to rapidly electrify our buildings. The grid must undoubtedly expand to facilitate the decarbonization we need across buildings, transportation, and other sectors of the economy. But there are many solutions that can make grid operations more flexible and mitigate the expected demand growth.

Battery storage and demand response, for example, can help reduce strain on the grid by shifting load to different times of the day to avoid peak periods and to match surplus, low-cost renewables. When paired with automated controls, distributed energy resources can provide flexible, behind-the-meter resources that meet customer demand while easing congestion and driving down costs. And grid-enhancing technologies (GETs) can better optimize the power flowing through transmission and distribution lines, avoiding the need for expensive upgrades.

Electric heat pumps are not just the “energy fad of the day.” They will be an essential component of the clean energy transition and are already bearing fruit. For example, in 2023, Maine exceeded its 100,000 heat pump deployment target two years early and created a new target of an additional 175,000 heat pumps by 2027. And that is in a state whose population is almost a third of Connecticut’s.

Although Connecticut is still in the process of updating its Comprehensive Energy Strategy (CES), we can look to the results of recent decarbonization studies in other states to understand the critical role that rapid deployment of heat pumps plays in achieving ambitious climate targets.

The Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan (CECP) for 2050 offers a helpful picture of the potential pathways that are available to Connecticut for meeting its emissions reduction goals. The CECP study modeled the “least-cost pathway to achieve net zero in 2050” and concluded that widespread electrification of buildings and transportation was the cheapest way to decarbonize the state’s economy.

The least-cost scenario calls for 80% of homes in Massachusetts to install a heat pump and for 97% of light-duty fleet to be electric by 2050. Despite significant anticipated electric load growth by 2050 — and the need for grid investments to support that electrification — this scenario was still found to be the most cost-effective path to achieving the state’s decarbonization goals. By electrifying buildings and transportation sectors, we can achieve the lowest cost solution to addressing climate change while also creating thousands of full-time jobs and delivering significant health benefits to Connecticut’s residents.

Biodiesel and renewable propane are not the answers to our energy challenges. Biofuels have widely varying lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions that are highly dependent on the feedstocks used to make them. The problem with biofuels as a building decarbonization solution is that the supply of climate-beneficial biofuels derived from waste feedstocks, like used cooking oil, is extremely limited. We’ll need that limited supply of beneficial waste-derived biofuels to decarbonize the most challenging industries to electrify, such as aviation and shipping.

Today, the majority of biofuels are made from energy crops like soy and corn that provide little to no climate benefit. Biodiesel derived from true waste products represents only a tiny sliver of overall biodiesel production. There is no way to scale waste-derived biofuels at anywhere near the levels necessary to function as a viable building decarbonization solution.

Moreover, the claim that “Conservation — not conversion — is the only proven method to lower emissions and costs” is misleading. Even if nothing changed in terms of the resources that provide electric power, heat pumps would help to reduce emissions. Because heat pumps move heat rather than generate heat, they are highly efficient and are more than three times as efficient as the best fossil gas units.

While the most cost-effective pathway to addressing climate change may drive increased electricity use, analysis from our grid operator, ISO-New England, highlights the critical role that energy efficiency and behind-the-meter solar will play in helping to mitigate this increase in electricity consumption. As such, both “conservation” and “conversion” will be necessary for supporting Connecticut’s energy transition.

Connecticut needs to rapidly electrify its buildings and transportation systems. By shifting away from the combustion of fossil fuels in our homes and businesses, we can unlock major financial and health benefits for families, businesses, and the grid overall. Delaying this transition is not an option.

Oliver Tully is Director, Utility Innovation and Accountability; and Jayson Velazquez is a Climate and Energy Justice Policy Associate at the Acadia Center.

To read the article from CT Mirror, click here.