Abstract for: Retrofitting Away Climate Change: Effects of Retrofits and Heat Pumps on Grid Load, Emissions, and Fossil Fuel Prices

Shifting from fossil fuel heating systems to electric heat pumps is necessary to limit global climate change. However, uptake of heat pumps may cause a rapid rise fossil fuel prices and for electricity demand to exceed electric grid capacity during peak demand periods. The latter may lead to blackouts and use of polluting and expensive peaker plants. Proposed solutions include incentivizing retrofits, which lower heat pumps’ load, and allowing households to keep fossil fuel heating systems as backup. Here we investigate the impact of these proposals on energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and peak electric loads of the housing sector over time, and how to best structure incentives to promote heat pump adoption and retrofits. We model a region’s housing stock to examine the incentives for and dynamics of retrofits, electrification, and related actions. The current model includes an aging chain for houses with coflows for relevant attributes, including heating and cooling systems, and a behaviorally realistic decision rules for retrofits, heat pump adoption, and heating/cooling system conversions. Future work will include include conversions between heating systems due to economics and social proof and calibrate the model to housing data from Massachusetts.