Nine States Pledge to Transition to Clean Buildings, Acceleration of Heat Pump Market

Heat pump outside a residential building

(Credit: International Energy Agency)

by | Feb 9, 2024

Nine states have jointly agreed to shift toward using heat pumps in residential buildings in order to accelerate a transition to pollution-free, efficient heating and cooling.

The agreement includes a shared commitment for heat pumps to meet at least 65% of residential-scale heating, air conditioning, and water heating shipments by 2030 and 90% by 2040. The states agreed to also collect market data and track progress to create an action plan within a year for more widespread electrification of residential buildings.

Heat pumps have been found to reduce buildings’ energy consumption and lower emissions compared to traditional HVAC and furnace systems as they do not rely on fossil fuels or refrigerants. The new coalition also emphasizes their pollution-reducing benefits — fossil fuel-based heating equipment emits smog-forming nitrogen and particulate matter that may cause an increased risk of heart attack, asthma, and other serious human health risks.

States Aim to Support and Grow U.S. Heat Pump Market

The plan, led by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, was signed by directors of environmental agencies from California, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island. The agreement also builds on an earlier commitment from the U.S. Climate Alliance member states and territories to quadruple heat pump installations by 2030.

A major goal of the agreement is to forward the heat pump market within the coming years and prove the viability of using the technology to decarbonize the high-emissions building sector.

“To achieve our shared decarbonization goals, we need to send an unmistakable signal to the marketplace that zero-emission homes are the future,” said Matt Rusteika, director of market transformation for the Building Decarbonization Coalition. “This agreement does that. We applaud NESCAUM and state leaders for a commitment that is ambitious, flexible, and pragmatic. We’re looking forward to the exciting work ahead.”

Widespread Heat Pump Use Needed for Building Decarbonization Goals

The building sector has been found to cause about 37% of global energy and process-related carbon emissions, and the United Nations currently considers the industry behind schedule in terms of meeting net-zero by 2050.

According to the International Energy Agency, heat pump sales around the world have grown immensely in recent years, experiencing 11% growth in 2022 alone, but the organization also explains that heat pumps still only meet about 10% of global heating needs for buildings. To meet global decarbonization goals, global heat pump stock will reportedly need to triple by 2030 to meet about 20% of global heating needs.

Reluctance to heat pump adoption stems from common misconceptions over their ability to operate in extreme temperatures as well as upfront costs. Researchers have recently developed new heat pumps for extreme cold weather, and heat pumps have already been found to operate at subfreezing temperatures. Tax incentives and grants may help cover upfront costs for heat pump installation, and the technology is found to save on long-term building energy costs.

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