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PSEG Long Island: Advancing Beneficial Electrification through Heat Pumps

TRC is working with PSEG Long Island to drive the electrification of HVAC equipment among residential customers, as part of a larger goal to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state. Since the vast majority of Long Islanders traditionally heat their houses with fossil fuel-based heating equipment, the incentivization of electric heat pumps is providing a significant opportunity to decarbonize the region’s energy use.

PSEG Long Island is the primary electric utility serving more than one million commercial and residential customers on Long Island, New York. Since 2012, TRC’s Advanced Energy team has planned, designed and implemented a comprehensive portfolio of energy efficiency programs to serve the utility’s customers – traditionally electricity (kWh) savings, during the first years of the programs’ existence.

In 2019, the focus shifted to decarbonization, as New York State implemented one of the nation’s most aggressive policies on climate change, the Climate Leadership Community Protection Act (CLCPA). The CLCPA calls for an 85% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To support the CLCPA, PSEG Long Island and TRC incorporated new strategies to maximize the existing suite of energy efficiency programs’ savings, including measures that are powered by electricity rather than natural gas, oil, propane, and gasoline.

Decarbonization through Heat Pumps

To effectively design electrification programs, the PSEG Long Island program team analyzed equipment replacement scenarios that would result in the most greenhouse gas emissions savings. This led immediately to a review of home heating equipment. The vast majority of Long Islanders, nearly 90%, heat their homes with fossil fuels, 40% with oil.

Traditional home heating fuel source, Long Island

Because of this heating system mix on Long Island, significant emissions reductions can be realized in oil heating to heat pump conversions. A heat pump is a heating and cooling technology that displaces heat from one place to another. Like a refrigerator or an air conditioner, heat pumps can keep a space cool by removing heat. What make heat pumps ideal electrification measures on Long Island is that unlike air conditioning, heat pumps warm spaces too, by transferring heat from outside air into a space. Heat pumps are essentially air conditioners that operate in reverse, and because of advances in heat pump technology, heat pumps can meet the heating demand, even on a cold winter day in the northeast.

Most notably, heat pumps are typically two to three times more efficient than traditional fossil fuel space heating and provide clean heating and cooling in one piece of equipment. Two common types are incentivized in the PSEG Long Island program: air-source heat pumps, which exchange heat between the home and the outside air, and ground-source or geothermal heat pumps, which exchange heat between the home and the earth beneath it, or a nearby body of water.

While heat pumps were offered in PSEG Long Island’s energy efficiency portfolio for a number of years, the equipment was rebated under the residential air conditioning program as cooling equipment that can supply supplemental heating. Because kWh savings was the goal, the savings methodology included comparison against an inefficient heat pump baseline, and any displaced fossil fuel was not considered. As PSEG Long Island’s focus shifted to include electrification goals, that displaced fossil fuel savings could be claimed, and PSEG Long Island could invest more budget and rebate dollars in the promotion of air-source heat pumps as a primary, low-carbon heating source.

To read more about the calculation methodology (fuel-neutral MMBtu reduction) developed by the TRC and PSEG Long Island team to accurately quantify the benefits of beneficial electrification as an interactive component of the portfolio, read our article in AESP Strategies magazine.

Progress to Date

The program, to date, is currently at 161% of its heat pump installation goal despite the business interruptions related to the Covid pandemic. PSEG Long Island is able to claim energy savings for the partial or complete displacement of fossil fuel equipment, and year to date savings exceeds 48,000 MMBtus and 2,456 metric tons of CO2 emissions. These savings are equal to the total annual energy consumption of almost 550 homes in the U.S.

Looking forward, TRC and PSEG Long Island will continue to support New York State’s clean energy policies and pave the way for fuel-neutral savings methodologies. The utility plans to rebate 30,000 heat pumps (inclusive of air-source, ground-source, water heaters, and pool heaters) resulting in 1 TBtu worth of savings by 2025.

Through innovative program changes, savings calculation methodology modifications, and customer solutions, the PSEG Long Island and TRC program team is excited to continually work to decarbonize energy usage among customers and transform the market.

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