Most buildings still rely on fossil energy — such as oil, coal and natural gas — for heating. This is because they are readily available and have higher heat value than their cleaner counterparts. However, these primary sources of energy are also high pollutants. As the grid moves towards eliminating CO2 emission, replacing these sources of energy with cleaner alternatives is imperative. Electric heat pumps — an alternative and cleaner heating technology — have been proposed as a viable replacement. In this paper, we conduct a data-driven optimization study to analyze the potential of reducing carbon emission by replacing gas-based heating with electric heat pumps. We do so while enforcing equity in such transition. We begin by conducting an in-depth analysis into the energy patterns and demographic profiles of buildings. Our analysis reveals a huge disparity between lower and higher income households. We show that the energy usage intensity for lower income homes is 24% higher than higher income homes. Next, we analyze the potential for carbon emission reduction by transitioning gas-based heating systems to electric heat pumps for an entire city. We then propose equity-aware transition strategies for selecting a subset of customers for heat pump-based retrofits which embed various equity metrics and balances the need to maximize carbon reduction with ensuring equitable outcomes for households. We evaluate their effect on CO2 emission reduction, showing that such equity-aware carbon emission reduction strategies achieve significant emission reduction while also reducing the disparity in the value of selected homes by 5× compared to a carbon-first approach.
Journal or Book Title
ACM SIGENERGY Energy Informatics Review