Shifting home heating from natural gas to electricity in Texas could cut carbon emissions by as much as 10 million metric tons and save ratepayers $2.6 million annually. These are two conclusions from a recent paper titled “Electric Texas,” which examines the benefits of electrifying heating systems in residential buildings.
Pecan Street is an Austin-based energy and water research organization that carried out the research on behalf of the Environmental Defense Fund. This organization argues the shift could be undertaken with currently available technology. Pecan Street also acknowledges overall electricity demand would increase as a result, but says it would be manageable.
In particular, Pecan Street projects a decline in summer peak demand, since electric heat pumps could also serve as effective air conditioners. In the most efficient scenario considered by the researchers, summer peak demand would drop by 24 percent. By contrast, winter demand would rise, making Texas a winter peaking system.
“As cities and states examine their options for reducing climate emissions, it’s important they have reliable estimates and models that show them what’s possible,” Pecan Street CEO Suzanne Russo explains.
In addition to the policy alternatives for cities and states, Pecan Street researchers present numbers that could interest ratepayers. According to their best-case scenario, annual utility bills would drop by $451 following a shift from natural gas to electric-powered heating. Even under a scenario where less efficient heat pumps are installed, customers would save $57 per year.
However, researchers point out these cost savings do not consider the significant up-front costs of installing new heating systems. They call for further research into the issue of financing the technological change.