Many organizations today are working to identify ways to reduce their dependence on carbon-rich fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, oil, and propane. Their goal: to dramatically reduce their emissions of the greenhouse gases implicated in climate change, while, hopefully, also decreasing their energy costs and bolstering organizational reputation at the same time.
For most organizations, the production of heat is the largest individual application of energy, and space heating for buildings is one of the largest components of that output, accounting for more than $20 billion each year expended by the commercial sector. With most of this heat generated by fossil fuels, building heating applications are therefore also among the largest components of the carbon footprint culpability of nearly any operation. Efforts to reduce the carbon emissions associated with building heating has recently led organizations to consider replacing fossil-fuel fired furnaces and boilers with electric-driven options. For many, this is the next step in the decarbonization of heating, building on the prior step of replacing traditional boilers with the more efficient condensing-type. Now, with the growing use of renewables on the supply-side, there is additional opportunity for decarbonization on the demand-side by replacing the boilers and furnaces altogether with heat pumps for an even larger improvement in operating cost, emissions, and decarbonization performance. This electrification of building heating can provide significant benefits at the location, allowing operators to not only reduce carbon emissions, but also remove onsite fossil fuel flue-based NOx (nitrogen dioxide) and SOx (sulfur dioxide) emissions, improve energy efficiency, and reduce operating costs. This evolution also provides a building’s power providers with the opportunity and flexibility to meet increasing demand with carbon-free renewable sources rather than fossil fuels, thereby further developing the potential to exponentially improve their carbon footprint. This possibility, of course, is not available to utilities providing fossil fuels only.