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DOE partners with industry to advance electric building heating in cold climates

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DOE partners with industry to advance electric building heating in cold climates

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Beneficial electrification has been a topic of discussion in U.S. Energy Department Secretary Jennifer Granholm's discussions with environmental justice communities.

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence

The U.S. Energy Department advanced its program to develop the market for cold weather heat pump technology by announcing its first industry partners in the endeavor.

Carrier Global Corp., Daikin Industries Ltd., Johnson Controls International PLC, Lennox International Inc., Mitsubishi Electric Corp. and Trane Technologies PLC will all take part in the DOE's Cold Climate Heat Pump Technology Challenge, according to a Nov. 1 news release.

Through the challenge, the heating, ventilation and air conditioning manufacturers will work with the DOE, Natural Resources Canada and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to demonstrate prototypes and launch pilot programs to accelerate heat pump adoption.

The challenge is part of the Biden administration's Initiative for Better Energy, Emissions and Equity, or E3, an overarching plan announced in May to advance clean heating and cooling deployment. The public-private partnership aims to develop next-generation heat pumps with improved performance in cold weather climates and greater efficiency in a wider range of operating conditions. The international companies would participate through their U.S. offices, according to the DOE.

Heat pumps absorb heat from the air, water, or ground to provide space conditioning. While they are highly efficient because they move more energy than they consume, air-source heat pump performance declines in extreme cold weather because there is less ambient heat in the air to absorb.

The E3 initiative reflects a broader movement to transition buildings from natural gas and fossil fuel to electric heating. Space conditioning and water heating account for more than 40% of primary energy use in U.S. buildings and generates substantial carbon emissions, according to the DOE.

"Cold climate heat pumps are a win-win for American families to comfortably heat their homes and businesses while significantly cutting down carbon pollution and lowering their energy costs," DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in the release.

Congressional Democrats have also proposed rebates for building electrification and energy efficiency retrofits, which would make heat pumps more viable. The latest iteration of Democrats' budget bill, which slashed the $3.5 trillion package roughly in half, pared back funding for those programs. A roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill also includes support for building emissions reductions.

Vice President Kamala Harris and Granholm were scheduled to travel to New York City on Nov. 1 to announce the partnerships, as well as a $200 million program to reduce vehicle emissions. Harris and Granholm were also slated to meet with BlocPower Public Benefit Corp., a Brooklyn-based company that has developed clean building solutions for 1,200 buildings in 26 U.S. cities, according to the company.