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Published Feb 15, 2024
3 mins read

We are So Screwed

In November 2023, Rewiring America published their Pace of Progress Report : a detailed analysis across 5 key areas of electrification showing present adoption trends vs the targets required for us to hit net zero carbon emissions in 2050. They developed the report using a well-reasoned methodology that takes into account the lifespans of different "machines" – documentation you can read here .

In the section around what they call "Space heating" (don't think small spaces, just think conditioning the air of whole home), they conclude:

...we need to inspire 703,000 sales of electric heat pumps over baseline in 2024, and 4.49 million sales of electric heat pumps over baseline cumulatively in the next three years.

Inspire is, well, an optimistic way to put it.

In Heat Pump Review , I plan on dissecting what's keeping heat pump sales from growing more quickly (think: lack of information, misinformation, cost, financing options, supply chain, etc), and surveying the myriad of ways we (industry, government, society) are trying to "inspire" this market to grow more quickly (think new products, new financing models, incentives, regulation, etc).

But let's pause for a moment and just appreciate how hard this particular curve really is:

In 2024, Rewiring 's analysis suggests that sales of home heating/cooling heat pumps need to be 40% higher than expected trends, and in 2025 sales need to be 75% higher.

Sometimes it's helpful to think back and find historical comparisons to imagine how/if a demand curve can be shifted that dramatically. In computing, the first two that come to mind are PC and smart phone revolutions. In the PC revolution, when prices started lowering significantly (thanks Moore's Law and scaling up), PCs finally broke through and got adopted by consumers. In the smart phone revolution, functionality improved 10X and we went from a Palm and Blackberry for some to an iPhone and then Android for all market.

Few other examples come to mind; and while I plan on probing these assumptions in further posts, I don't think we're in store for the costs to come down like PCs did between the early 80s and mid 90s, nor should we expect the end product – conditioned air to be comfortable – to improve 10X from what we have today (or for the consumer's ancillary benefits, like savings on energy expenses and lowering their carbon footprint, to "inspire" consumers in the same way as a 10X experience change).

Conclusion: Hope?

How dare I write a post just about how screwed we are, punt an exploration of solutions to later, and just leave you with the insight that we have no historical examples to draw on to even begin imagining that "we can do this!"

And yet I write this (and have started the Heat Pump Review ) precisely because I have that hope. In my explorations, I'll be thrilled to find that the answers already exist somewhere - and I'll certainly report on them if that's true. But what I know I'll find is a growing body of people incentivized to invent the solutions that will get us there. Many of these solutions have been years in the making. Some, like this project, are just forming today.

Nate Westheimer
Nate Westheimer Editor, Heat Pump Review
Nate Westheimer is the Editor of Heat Pump Review. He as worked in the tech industry for nearly 20 years, including as a Director of Technical Product Management at Amazon, the CEO of Picturelife, and as the Executive Director of the NY Tech Alliance.
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