Utility opposes new rules for heat pumps popular in Maine

Versant Power opposes a shift to whole-house electric heat pumps from those used in one or 2 rooms, saying affluent homeowners and developers will benefit.

Stephen Singer

Press Herald

April 24, 2024

EXCERPTS

Versant Power is pushing back against a new approach to broaden the use of heat pumps, which already are a key part of Maine’s toolbox to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Efficiency Maine Trust, a quasi-state agency that promotes energy efficiency, has shifted its rebate program to incentivize electric pumps that heat an entire house rather than one or two rooms. Its intent is to make electricity the primary home heat source and discourage the secondary use of oil or gas.

Michael Stoddard, executive director of Efficiency Maine Trust, said one reason for the change is that a federal tax credit of up to $2,000 for a single heat pump is significantly more than the $400 and $800 that Maine once offered as an incentive. In addition, an analysis showed that a heat pump does not operate frequently when a boiler also is running, he said.

Stoddard said a heat pump competes with a boiler that is a bigger and more powerful system, “forcing the heat pump in a standby role.”


“As a result the customer is not saving very much money,” he said.

Moving to a whole-house heat pump allows a homeowner to double down on heat pumps and turn off the boiler, he said...................

...................Versant, which serves 165,000 customers in northern and central parts of Maine, said a shift to whole-home heat pumps “risks shifting greater access to higher-income households who can afford the more extensive retrofits to their home.” The utility is concerned the shift will benefit wealthy homeowners and large-scale developers, said David Littell, an attorney and former PUC member who worked on Versant’s filing..............................

......................Low-income customers can receive 80% of a project’s cost up to an $8,000 rebate, those with moderate incomes are eligible for 60% of a project’s cost up to a $6,000 rebate and any income may be reimbursed 40% of cost up to a $4,000 rebate...........................

...................“This a proven solution for providing reliable heating throughout a Maine winter and the simple truth is that we won’t be able to meet Maine’s emissions reduction goals without significantly scaling up to whole-home installations in the coming years.”.........................

https://www.pressherald.com/2024/04/24/utility-opposes-new-rules-fo...

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Comment by Willem Post on April 25, 2024 at 3:58pm

HEAT PUMPS ARE MONEY LOSERS IN MY VERMONT HOUSE, AS THEY ARE IN ALMOST ALL NEW ENGLAND HOUSES

https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/heat-pumps-are-money-l...

 

Vermont “Electrify-Everything” Goals Will Cost $Billions and Will Reduce Little CO2

 

The Vermont state government wants to electrify-everything (heat pumps, electric cars, and transit and school buses, no matter the:

 

1) Very high turnkey capital cost,

2) Very meager energy cost savings

3) Very meager CO2 reductions, on an A-to-Z, lifetime basis.

 

VT-DPS CADMUS Survey of Vermont Heat Pumps

 

VT-DPS commissioned CADMUS to perform a survey of Vermont air source heat pumps (HPs), after numerous complaints from HP users regarding: 1) high electric bills and 2) minimal annual savings after installing HPs

 

The report and VT-DPS found the average energy cost savings regarding HPs was about $200/HP, as proven by the CADMUS survey report of operating data of 77 HPs at 65 sites. See URL

https://publicservice.vermont.gov/sites/dps/files/documents/2017%20...

 

Those meager energy savings would be more than offset by the annual amortizing cost of $4,500/HP at 6%/y for 15 years, plus any annual maintenance costs, and parts and labor costs. HPs are significant money losers for Vermonters. See URLs

 

The main result of Vermont’s HP saga has been:

 

1) Lucrative benefits to the Efficiency-Vermont-approved HP installers

2) Lucrative benefits to Canadian-owned GMP, which sells a lot more high-priced electricity, using the same poles and wires.

3) Everyone else getting royally screwed; an example of “fighting” climate change; Don-Quixote tilting at wind mills.

 

Weatherizing Vermont’s Energy-Hog Houses

 

Please stop using the word “weatherizing”, which usually costs about $10,000/house.

 

Such a measure is not anywhere near sufficient for HPs to displace 100% of fossil fuel Btus with electricity Btus; it is a mere band-aid;

akin to whistling past the graveyard.

For 100% displacement, 2 to 3 HPs, with multiple heads, are required, PLUS a wood/propane/fuel oil stove on colder days.

 

A house would have to be highly sealed, highly insulated, R40 walls, R60 ceiling, R20 basement, R7 windows, R10 doors, with exhaust heat recovery system, etc., to have HPs economically displace 100% of fossil fuel Btus with electricity Btus.

Such houses do exist in Vermont, but are less than 2 to 3% of the entire housing stock.

 

Vermont has a government-subsidized weatherizing program, that aims to decrease the energy consumption for heating, cooling and electricity of average Vermont houses. The average weatherizing cost is about $10,000/house.

 

However, owners who have weatherized should not think their house has become suitable for HPs to displace 100% of fossil fuel Btus with electricity Btus. Nothing could further from the truth!

 

I have a well-sealed, well-insulated house, oriented/designed for passive solar gain, i.e., it is already weatherized, but my 3 HPs, with 6 heads, economically displace only 35% of my fossil fuel Btus with electricity Btus, based on 3 years of measured operating data.

 

One HP with one head, in an average Vermont house, displaces only 27.6% of the fossil fuel Btus with electricity Btus, as confirmed by the CADMUS survey report.

 

All of the above is well known by energy engineers at VT-DPS, and EAN, and VEIC, and Efficiency-Vermont, etc.

Those engineers likely know of some very energy-efficient Vermont houses, with HPs that displace 100% of fossil fuel Btus with electricity Btus, year-after-year.

 

HPs are Uneconomical at Low Temperatures

 

HPs are very uneconomical at low temperatures, which is exactly the condition when your house requires the most space heat. With HP system losses, aka overhead of about 10%, it would be almost like heating your house with electric heat; a very expensive hardship on cold days.

 

If a house had a space heat requirement of 11,500 Btu/h at 47F, the propane cost would be about 40 c/h, but the HP electricity cost would be about 16 c/h, for a saving of about 24 c/h

 

If a house had a space heat requirement of 35,000 Btu/h at 0F, the propane cost would be about 121 c/h, but the HP electricity cost would be about 141 c/h, for a loss of about 20 c/h

 

My Experience with HPs in my Well-Insulated, Well-Sealed House

 

I installed three heat pumps by Mitsubishi, rated 24,000 Btu/h at 47F, Model MXZ-2C24NAHZ2, each with 2 heads, each with remote control; 2 in the living room, 1 in the kitchen, and 1 in each of 3 bedrooms.

The HPs have DC variable-speed, motor-driven compressors and fans, which improves the efficiency of low-temperature operation.

The HPs last about 15 years.

Turnkey capital cost was $24,000, less $2,400 subsidy from GMP

http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/vermont-co2-reduction-o...

 

My Well-Sealed, Well-Insulated House

 

The HPs are used for heating and cooling my 35-y-old, 3,600 sq ft, well-sealed/well-insulated house.

The basement, 1,200 sq ft, has a near-steady temperature throughout the year, because it has 2” of blueboard, R-10, on the outside of the concrete foundation and under the basement slab, which has saved me many thousands of space heating dollars over the 35 years.

 

I do not operate my HPs below 10F to 15F (depending on sun and wind conditions), because all HPs would become increasingly less efficient with decreasing outdoor temperatures.

The HP operating cost per hour would become greater than of my efficient propane furnace. See table 3

 

High Electricity Prices

 

Vermont forcing, with subsidies and/or GWSA mandates, the build-outs of expensive RE electricity systems, such as wind, solar, batteries, etc., would be counter-productive, because it would:

 

1) Increase already-high electric rates and

2) Worsen the already-poor economics of HPs (and of EVs)!!

https://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/high-costs-of-wind-sol...

 

My Energy Cost Reduction is Minimal

 

- HP electricity consumption was from my electric bills, and an HP system electric meter.

- Vermont electricity prices, including taxes, fees and surcharges, are assumed at 20 c/kWh.

- My HPs provide space heat to 2,300 sq ft, about the same area as an average Vermont house

- Two small propane heaters (electricity not required) provide space heat to my 1,300 sq ft basement

- I operate my HPs at temperatures of 10 to 15F and greater (depending on wind and sun conditions)

- I operate my traditional propane system at temperatures of 10f to 15F and less

 

- My average HP coefficient of performance, COP, was 2.64

- My HPs required 2,489 kWh to replace 35% of my fossil Btus.

- My HPs would require 8,997 kWh, to replace 100% of my fossil Btus.

 

https://afdc.energy.gov/files/u/publication/fuel_comparison_chart.pdf

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41597-019-0199-y

https://acrpc.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/HeatPumps-ACRPC-5_20.pdf

 

Before HPs: I used 100 gal for domestic hot water + 250 gal for 2 stoves in basement + 850 gal for Viessmann furnace, for a total propane of 1,200 gal/y

 

After HPs: I used 100 gal for DHW + 250 gal for 2 stoves in basement + 550 gal for Viessmann furnace + 2,489 kWh of electricity.

 

My propane cost reduction for space heating was 850 - 550 = 300 gallon/y, at a cost of $2.339/gal (buyers plan) = $702/y

My displaced fossil Btus was 100 x (1 - 550/850) = 35%, which is better than the Vermont average of 27.6%

My purchased electricity cost increase was 2,489 kWh x 20 c/kWh = $498/y

 

My energy cost savings due to the HPs were 702 - 498 = $204/y, on an investment of $24,000!!

 

Amortizing Heat Pumps

 

Amortizing the 24000 – 2400 = $21,600 turnkey capital cost at 6%/y for 15 years costs about $2,187/y.

This is in addition to the amortizing of my existing propane system. I am losing money.

https://www.myamortizationchart.com

 

Other Annual Costs

 

There likely would be annual cleaning of HPs at $200/HP, and parts and labor, as the years go by.

This is in addition to the annual service calls and parts for my existing propane system. I am losing more money.

 

My Energy Savings of Propane versus HPs

 

Site Energy Basis: RE folks claim there would be a major energy reduction, due to using HPs. They compare the thermal Btus of 300 gallon of propane x 84,250 Btu/gal = 25,275,000 Btu vs the electrical Btus of 2,489 kWh of electricity x 3,412 Btu/kWh = 8,492,469 Btu. However, that comparison would equate thermal Btus with electrical Btus, which all ethical engineers know is an absolute no-no.

 

A-to-Z Energy Basis: A proper comparison would be thermal Btus of propane vs thermal Btus fed to power plants, i.e., 25,275,000 Btu vs 23,312,490 Btu, i.e., a minor energy reduction. See table 1A

 

BTW, almost all RE folks who claim a major energy reduction from HPs, do not know how to compose below table, and yet these ignorami mandate others what to do to save the world.

 

Table 1A, Energy Savings

Heat in propane, Btu/y, HHV

25275000

Fuel to power plant, Btu/y

23312490

Fuel to power plant, kWh/y

6833

Conversion efficiency

0.4

Fed to grid, kWh

2733

Transmission loss adjustment, 2.4%

2667

Distribution loss adjustment, 6.7%

2489

Heat in propane, Btu/gal, HHV

84250

Purchased propane, gal/y

300

Purchased electricity, kWh/y

2489

Heat in propane Btu/gal, LHV

84250

Standby, kWh

91

Defrost, kWh

154

To compressor, kWh

2244

COP

2.64

Heat for space heat, kWh

5926

Btu/kWh

3412

Furnace efficiency

0.8

Btu/y for space heat

20220000

20220000


.

Comparison of CO2 Reduction in my House versus EAN Estimate

 

My CO2 emissions for space heating, before HPs, were 850 gal/y x 12.7 lb CO2/gal, from combustion = 4.897 Mt/y

 

My CO2 emissions for space heating, after HPs, were calculated in two ways:

 

1) Market based, based on commercial contracts, aka power purchase agreements, PPAs

2) Location based, based on fuels combusted by power plants connected to the NE grid

See Appendix for details.

 

Market Based

 

Per state mandates, utilities have PPAs with Owners of low-CO2 power sources, such as wind, solar, nuclear, hydro, and biomass, in-state and out-of-state.

Utilities crow about being “low-CO2”, or “zero-CO2” by signing PPA papers, i.e., without spending a dime.

Energy Action Network, a pro-RE-umbrella organization, uses 33.9 g CO2/kWh (calculated by VT-DPS), based on utilities having PPAs with low-CO2 power sources.

Using that low CO2 value makes HPs look extra good compared with fossil fuels.

 

My CO2 of propane was 550 gal/y x 12.7 lb CO2/gal, combustion only = 3.168 Mt/y

My CO2 of electricity was 2,489 kWh x 33.9 g/kWh = 0.084 Mt/y

Total CO2 = 3.168 + 0.084 = 3.253 Mt/y

CO2 reduction is 4.897 - 3.253 = 1.644 Mt/y, based on the 2018 VT-DPS “paper-based” value of 33.9 g CO2/kWh

 

Location Based

 

Utilities physically draw almost all of their electricity supply from the high-voltage grid

If utilities did not have PPAs, and would draw electricity from the high-voltage grid, they would be stealing.

ISO-NE administers a settlement system, to ensure utilities pay owners per PPA contract.

 

Electricity travels as electric-magnetic waves, at near the speed of light, i.e., from northern Maine to southern Florida, about 1,800 miles in 0.01 second.

There is no physical basis for lay RE folks to talk about there being a “VT CO2” or a “NH CO2”, etc.

 

All electricity on the NE grid has one value for g CO2/kWh.

ISO-NE, the NE grid operator, calculated that value at 317 g CO2/kWh, at wall outlet, for 2018

 

My CO2 of propane was 550 gal/y x 12.7 lb CO2/gal, combustion only = 3.168 Mt/y

My CO2 of electricity was 2,489 kWh x 317 g/kWh = 0.789 Mt/y

Total CO2 = 3.168 + 0.789 = 3.937 Mt/y

CO2 reduction is 4.897 - 3.937 = 0.939 Mt/y, based on the 2018 “real world” value of 317 g CO2/kWh, as calculated by ISO-NE

 

Cost of CO2 Reduction is ($2059/y, amortizing - $204/y, energy cost savings + $200/y, service, parts, labor) / (0.939 Mt/y, CO2 reduction) = $2,188/Mt, which is outrageously expensive. 

   

https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/co2_vol_mass.php

https://afdc.energy.gov/files/u/publication/fuel_comparison_chart.pdf

 

EAN Excessive CO2 Reduction Claim to Hype HPs

 

EAN claims 90,000 HPs, by 2025, would reduce 0.37 million metric ton of CO2, in 2025, or 0.37 million/90,000 = 4.111 Mt/y.

https://www.eanvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/EAN-report-2020-fi...

 

EAN achieves such a high value, because EAN assumes 100% displacement of fuel (gas, propane, fuel oil), which is completely unrealistic, because the actual fuel displacement in Vermont houses with HPs was only 27.6%, based on a VT-DPS-sponsored survey of HPs in Vermont, and 35% in my well-insulated/well-sealed VT house, as above stated.

 

The EAN 100% claim would be true, only for highly sealed and highly insulated houses, which represent about 2% of all Vermont houses.

In addition, the average Vermont house would need 2 to 3 HPs, with 4 to 6 heads, at a turnkey cost of at least $20,000, to achieve 100% displacement. See URL

 

Table 1/CO2 Reduction

With HP

With HP

Fuel displaced 35%

Electricity

Electricity

Market based

Location based

Electricity CO2, g/kWh

33.9

317

CO2 of 2489 kWh, Mt/y

0.084

0.789

CO2 of 550 gal of propane, Mt/y

3.168

3.168

Total CO2 with HPs, Mt/y

3.253

3.957

CO2 of 850 gal of propane, Mt/y

4.897

4.897

CO2 reduction by my HPs, Mt/y

1.644

0.939

.

Fuel displaced 100%

CO2 reduction by EAN, Mt/y

4.111

 

Coddling RE Businesses

 

Heavily subsidized businesses selling/installing/servicing HPs, etc., will be collecting hundreds of $millions each year over the decades, while already-struggling, over-regulated, over-taxed Vermonters will be further screwed out of a decent standard of living.

 

HP boosters Sens. Bray, McDonald, etc., know about those dreadful HP results in Vermont, and yet they continue shilling for HPs.

Comment by Dan McKay on April 24, 2024 at 10:39am

Stoddard said a heat pump competes with a boiler that is a bigger and more powerful system......

What the hell is wrong with this guy. " bigger and more powerful" is an American economic principle that has made us the most powerful country ever. He is a fascist and the most dangerous government agency head in Maine.

Mr. Stoddard, get a clue. The more of our money you gift to heat pump manufacturers and installers, the more they charge. You have no right to expose OUR money to corruption and make believe you are saving us money. EMT must be defunded and Stoddard charged with conspiracy to defraud Maine people.

 

Comment by Dan McKay on April 24, 2024 at 9:33am

As always, this mess was a concoction of the majority democrat legislature:

"The Legislature has set forth the goal of at least 115,000 households in the State wholly heated by heat pumps and an additional 130,000 households in the State partially heated by heat pumps by 2030  (35-A MRSA §10104(4)(F)(7)). "

Fairfield, MAINE,  July 21, 2023 – Governor Janet Mills today announced that Maine has – two years ahead of time – surpassed its goal of installing 100,000 new heat pumps by 2025, a milestone that represents significant progress in reducing Maine’s reliance on heating oil, lowering heating costs, and curbing harmful carbon emissions.

To continue Maine’s momentum, Governor Mills also unveiled a new target: installing another 175,000 additional heat pumps in Maine by 2027, thereby bringing the number of heat pumps installed in Maine homes, businesses, and public buildings during her time in office to 275,000. If this target is achieved, Maine would have more than 320,000 heat pumps in total installed across the state.

Remember, 15 years ago, the democrats also set a 3000-megawatt goal for state sited wind power by 2020, but the state came up far short of those goals. The goal, once prominent in the "Wind Act" has been deleted from law.

This ridiculous goal of whole house heat pumps is another government intrusion into your household energy selections.  RESIST!

 

Maine as Third World Country:

CMP Transmission Rate Skyrockets 19.6% Due to Wind Power

 

Click here to read how the Maine ratepayer has been sold down the river by the Angus King cabal.

Maine Center For Public Interest Reporting – Three Part Series: A CRITICAL LOOK AT MAINE’S WIND ACT

******** IF LINKS BELOW DON'T WORK, GOOGLE THEM*********

(excerpts) From Part 1 – On Maine’s Wind Law “Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine if the law’s goals were met." . – Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, August 2010 https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/wind-power-bandwagon-hits-bumps-in-the-road-3/From Part 2 – On Wind and Oil Yet using wind energy doesn’t lower dependence on imported foreign oil. That’s because the majority of imported oil in Maine is used for heating and transportation. And switching our dependence from foreign oil to Maine-produced electricity isn’t likely to happen very soon, says Bartlett. “Right now, people can’t switch to electric cars and heating – if they did, we’d be in trouble.” So was one of the fundamental premises of the task force false, or at least misleading?" https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/wind-swept-task-force-set-the-rules/From Part 3 – On Wind-Required New Transmission Lines Finally, the building of enormous, high-voltage transmission lines that the regional electricity system operator says are required to move substantial amounts of wind power to markets south of Maine was never even discussed by the task force – an omission that Mills said will come to haunt the state.“If you try to put 2,500 or 3,000 megawatts in northern or eastern Maine – oh, my god, try to build the transmission!” said Mills. “It’s not just the towers, it’s the lines – that’s when I begin to think that the goal is a little farfetched.” https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/flaws-in-bill-like-skating-with-dull-skates/

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Hannah Pingree on the Maine expedited wind law

Hannah Pingree - Director of Maine's Office of Innovation and the Future

"Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine."

https://pinetreewatch.org/wind-power-bandwagon-hits-bumps-in-the-road-3/

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