IEA Heat Pump Report Signals Bigger Shift on Road to Net-Zero
The agency’s “gold standard” analysis used to give cover to fossil fuel expansion. Now it’s embracing the “unsexy, essential technology” that changes everything.
When the International Energy Agency embraces the lowly heat pump as a cornerstone for its big-picture energy modelling, you know we’re living in a different world.
The Paris-based agency’s report last week dug into a breakthrough opportunity to heat and cool buildings more efficiently, shift demand from fossil fuels to electricity, and get energy costs under control for households and businesses.
The IEA has usually found itself on the other side of the climate and energy story, taking serious fire for projecting future increases in fossil fuel demand that would put climate and emission targets far out of reach. It also built up a reputation for consistently underestimating how far clean technology costs could fall, or how quickly and widely those technologies could go into everyday use.
For years, both of those choices gave cover to new fossil fuel development, making it easy to argue—incorrectly, but still successfully—that oil and gas consumption will increase for years or decades.
But that began to change last year, with the release of a blockbuster report in which the IEA called for no new investment in oil, gas, or coal development, a massive increase in renewable energy adoption, speedy global phaseouts for new natural gas boilers and internal combustion vehicles, and a sharp focus on short-term emission reductions.
Now, the agency has shifted its gaze to a technology whose contribution to the global climate fight is like the proverbial mosquito in a tent. It's too small to notice with each individual installation, but could scale up fast to enough to deliver 500 million tonnes of emission cuts by 2030.