Economic and environmental costs are two particularly thorny challenges to any cold climate heat pump endeavor. The societal objective of carbon reduction often runs up against what is economically best for average consumers. Balancing environmental best practices with customers’ enlightened self-interest can be particularly challenging when it comes to fossil fuels like natural gas, which have a relatively small price tag for the consumer but still contribute to the overall amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The benefits for the individual consumer are acute, whereas the environmental cost is diffuse.
To stay competitive with other technologies, cold climate heat pump programs often need compromises or incentives built into them. For instance, programs that combine cold climate heat pump technology with standard electrical energy measures like weatherization and insulation can increase overall program efficiency and keep the technology competitive.
Bringing cold climate heat pumps to New York State
A strong ally network is vital to determining the viability of any next-generation technology. Realistically, only a seasoned partner can provide the sort of network that can identify and exploit market gaps and so best position technologies like cold climate heat pumps to succeed.
New York State’s experience with programs offering heat pump incentives began in the Central Hudson region in 2012. The state’s hands-on experience displacing room AC and fossil-fuel heating with mini-split systems led in 2019 to the evolution of a Central Hudson Gas & Electric Carbon Reduction Program featuring a new generation of cold climate heat pumps.
A different contract between Con Edison and the state of New York in 2017 featured mini-split heat pumps and outlined the NYS Clean Heat program. Our contributions to these projects led to contracts with Avangrid, Orange & Rockland, and National Grid—making us the initial contractor for all joint utilities co-implementing the NYS Clean Heat program.
The technology is here. Providers can execute cold climate heat pump programs with efficiency and a steady hand. But a heat pump program’s success depends heavily on choosing the correct partner. A partner with the right leverage, allies, and network can help heat pump program pioneers evolve both their technology and their organization to meet the needs of the moment and step confidently into a low-carbon future.