Journal Article

Implications of heating sector electrification on the Irish power system in view of the Climate Action Plan

June 29, 2022

Energy Policy, Vol 168, September 2022

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Electrifying the heating sector, which is energy and carbon intensive, and shifting electricity supply to renewable technologies is one of the main policy options being pursued for decarbonisation of the heating sector. Heat pumps are widely adopted for this purpose. However, the impact of this policy on existing electrical systems, both from the perspectives of supply and demand, is understudied in the literature. This paper examines the system-wide impacts of integrating high quantities of heat pumps, in line with government targets, in Ireland. We provide a broad discussion of the ramifications of heating sector electrification in terms of system costs and expansion planning under renewable energy targets. Results reveal significant changes in generation and increases in associated costs with increasing levels of electrification. On the flip side, the heating sector electrification leads to more efficient utilisation of renewable energy and the transmission network. We also explore alternative policy pathways to minimize impacts on the system. These include determining optimal locations for heat pump integration and a technology-neutral emission reduction target. Optimal distribution of heat pumps has a low impact on system metrics whereas pursuing an emission reduction target makes a large impact on system costs.