Montréal, October 26, 2022
Écohabitation heating studyEnsuring a successful energy transition calls for multiple tools
Hydro-Québec wishes to respond to Écohabitation’s comparative assessment of different heating systems in Québec, released this morning. Entitled Analyse de la position concurrentielle de différents systèmes de chauffage au Québec, the study is essentially on the wrong track in promoting just one solution for decarbonizing building heating, and also contains gaps.
A study that falls short on several counts
One problem with the study is that it only takes operating expenses into account. However, when comparing two solutions, all parameters, including equipment purchase and installation costs, must be considered.
Another problem is the exclusive focus on single-family homes, which represent only a fraction of the buildings targeted by the dual-energy conversion program. In fact, the dual-energy solution targets residential buildings of every kind — detached, semi-detached, multi-unit and so on — along with commercial and institutional buildings. Keep in mind that through the program, buildings that currently meet most of their winter heating needs with natural gas will switch to using electricity the vast majority of the time.
Heat accumulators: some potential, but a more limited scope
Given that heat accumulators, also known as electric thermal storage (ETS) systems, are quite costly and take up significant space, not all homes targeted by the dual-energy conversion would be able to accommodate them.
Hydro-Québec is making considerable efforts to promote electric thermal storage, including an ad campaign and a considerable subsidy ($10,000). Nonetheless, only about 40 such systems have been installed in Québec to date.
An energy transition toolkit
Having multiple tools for managing winter peaks is crucial to the success of the energy transition. Dynamic pricing, thermal storage systems, heat pumps and dual energy are some of those tools. They shouldn’t be seen as being in opposition to one another: quite the contrary, in fact, since they don’t target the same customers. Hydro-Québec is actively promoting the full range of options (heat pumps, thermal storage systems, dynamic pricing, Hilo, dual energy).
Each program or option presents different advantages for customers and for Hydro-Québec. Like other energy management measures, ETS systems aim to shift power demand from peak hours to off-peak hours for about 100 hours in winter. However, there’s a limit to how much of the load can be shifted. Indeed, moving too much of the load outside periods of high demand will just end up creating a new peak later in the day, when more heat is needed.
Dual energy makes it possible to curtail some of the demand during peak periods: close to 500 hours per winter. This isn’t load shifting, since heating is provided by another energy source.
Lastly, let’s be clear: Hydro-Québec is very much in favor of its customers switching to dynamic pricing, just as it would like to see more ETS systems installed in homes.
Everyone agrees on the main goal: decarbonizing building heating. We firmly believe that a pragmatic, diversified and realistic approach is what’s needed to ensure a successful energy transition at the best cost for society. Otherwise, the transition simply won’t happen.
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