UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The adoption of ground source heat pumps at multiple scales in North America Jensen, Thor


In North America, space heating, hot water, and air conditioning use more secondary energy than any other activity within buildings, thus emitting the majority of scope 1 and scope 2 Greenhouse Gases (GHG). The Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) uses one-third the energy of traditional technologies to provide space conditioning and hot water services. While GSHP is a well-established technology, the energy savings and lower GHG emissions have not translated into their widespread adoption. Public policy measures and financial incentives adopted to promote GSHP have failed to lead to broad adoption or lower costs. This thesis examines the adoption of GSHP in response to supportive policies among residential, institutional, and city-scale adopters. Detailed site-level and panel data permit natural experiments on the response of residential adopters in Canada and the US to changing incentives. At higher scales, regulatory proceedings concerning the offering of Thermal Energy Services (TES) has provided a case study for analysis of utility models to finance GSHP for commercial and institutional clients. In Canada and the US, financial incentives failed to sustain the adoption of GSHP throughout or after the period of subsidy among residential households. Neither did incentives lead to a decrease in price over time. Free-ridership problems in Canada and an inability to make inroads to areas served by natural gas have stranded GSHP technology. Further, the capital cost of GSHP results in a higher lifecycle cost than most alternatives. The economy-wide benefits of financial incentives for GSHP are limited in Canada, where most heat pumps are imported. TES provide compelling innovations to bridge barriers at higher scales. TES overcome balance sheet constraints on debt common to public sector organizations by financing capital equipment and renovations as utility payments. TES can overcome capital constraints faced by developers by financing equipment inside the building lowering construction costs. However, our case study of public procurement reveals TES to be a costly approach in the long run. The insights from this research are translated into best practices and policy advice to improve contracting, increase awareness, and align incentives for greater efficiency.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada