warm thoughts


Written on: January 30, 2023

In a letter to the editor of the Washington Post, PERC President and CEO Tucker Perkins provides context on a Post opinion piece about the benefits of electric heat pumps. In the letter, Perkins contends that electric heat pumps strain electric grids, particularly during extreme weather, and contribute to more emissions than onsite gas use in many parts of the U.S. because of the fuel sources used to produce electricity.

Re: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/01/04/heat-pumps-climate-carbon-emission-revolution/

To the editor,

In his piece lionizing electric heat pumps, Robert Gebelhoff glosses over some major concerns that deserve more than a passing mention. Namely, that mandated heat pump use will put even more stress on an electric grid that is overburdened and reliant on natural gas and coal in many parts of the country. When you add severe winter weather to the equation, as we saw in the upper Midwest, Great Lakes and upstate New York around Christmas, the question of heat and power becomes one of life and death.

Today, on-site gas appliances are on balance cleaner than electric ones because power plants have to burn excessive amounts of fuel to compensate for generation and transmission inefficiencies. It could be decades before the electric grid is clean enough to match the environmental performance of on-site gas appliances. And as much as heat pump technology has improved, it is still less efficient than gas at very cold temperatures according to analysis by the Propane Education & Research Council.

We in the propane industry are not anti-heat pump or even anti-electrification. We simply advocate for a wide path to lower emissions; one that includes low-carbon fuels working in concert with clean electricity generated using renewables like wind and solar. That mix will look different in Buffalo than it does in Burbank, but it is the best way to ensure our energy systems can deliver clean, reliable power and comfort in any weather, anywhere.

Tucker Perkins

President and CEO, Propane Education & Research Council