Here's how gas heat pumps are an important option to help meet BC’s climate action targets

Feb 27 2023, 7:02 pm

Innovative gas heat pump technology is an energy-efficient option to help British Columbians lower their energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. And, FortisBC is leading the effort to bring gas heat pumps into BC to help make homes and businesses more energy efficient and work towards achieving provincial climate action goals.

What are gas heat pumps?

Essentially, a heat pump transfers heat from one area to another. Heat pumps use energy to capture heat from the ambient outdoor air as an additional energy source and then transfers it indoors to provide space heating, hot water and/or ventilation. By transferring heat, the energy output is greater than the energy input which is why heat pumps can achieve efficiencies of more than 100%.¹

With the option to install a gas heat pump, customers can take advantage of the reliability and relatively low cost of gas. Another advantage of a gas heat pump is that it can also produce heat at optimal efficiency levels during colder winter temperatures.

FortisBC began testing gas heat pumps in commercial buildings in 2019 and these units proved to lower energy use by up to 35% and reduce emissions by up to 50%.² In 2022, the company launched the first rebate program in Canada for commercial gas heat pumps to help organizations install this technology in their buildings.

British Columbians can further reduce emissions by running their gas heat pumps using Renewable Natural Gas (RNG),³ a low-carbon gas made from biogas produced from decomposing organic waste. Customers can designate up to 100% of their gas use to be RNG, helping to decarbonize the gas system

Recently, FortisBC started a pilot program to test gas heat pumps in BC homes — a first in the province. FortisBC will be measuring the performance of these heat pumps in real-world settings over the next year and determining if this technology meets the requirements to offer a rebate program for these units.

“We’re excited about our first pilot program to test gas heat pumps in BC homes. It’s an incredible step forward in learning more about this technology and how it can integrate into the existing gas system to support significant energy and cost savings for homeowners,” explained Mila Barbour, manager of heat pump technologies at FortisBC.

“We’re focused on helping British Columbians lower their energy use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, all while working towards provincial climate action targets.”

Investing in energy efficiency

FortisBC is committed to helping British Columbians make energy efficiency upgrades.

Between 2010 and 2021, FortisBC invested close to half a billion dollars in their energy efficiency incentive programs and are expected to see a reduction of around three million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) over the lifetime of all the measures installed,⁴ which is the energy equivalent to taking around 647,000 gasoline-powered cars off the road permanently.⁵

Testing high-efficient gas heat pumps and learning more about this technology is a key part of how FortisBC is providing energy for a better BC.

Check out some of the other work that FortisBC is doing to decarbonize the gas system and help its customers lower their energy use.

¹ Coefficient of performance (COP) and gas usage efficiency (GUE) results of more than 1.0 were achieved in a Robur A gas absorption heat pump systems with dynamic controls, as recorded by Building Energy Solutions (BES) Ltd. in its Measurement & Verification report for the natural gas absorption heat pump pilot, phase 3 and 4, September 9, 2021.

² When compared to switching to a gas heat pump from standard efficiency equipment.

³ Renewable Natural Gas is produced in a different manner than conventional natural gas. It is derived from biogas, which is produced from decomposing organic waste from landfills, agricultural waste and wastewater from treatment facilities. The biogas is captured and cleaned to create Renewable Natural Gas (also called biomethane).

Emission reduction value based on life cycle (well to burner tip) emission factor of 0.0598 tonnes CO2e/GJ for natural gas. Annual emission reductions are just those attributed to the first year following measure implementation. Lifetime reductions are the total reductions that occur over the life of all measures implemented (based on NPV of gas savings).

Cars taken off the road equivalent (tCO2e) end use lifecycle emission factor: 4.7

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