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Geothermal Heat Pumps: Market status, barriers to adoption, and actions to overcome barriers


More effective stewardship of our resources contributes to the security, environmental sustainability, and economic well-being of the nation. Buildings present one of the best opportunities to economically reduce energy consumption and limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Geothermal heat pumps (GHPs), sometimes called ground-source heat pumps, have been proven capable of producing large reductions in energy use and peak demand in buildings.

If the federal government set a goal for the U.S. buildings sector to use no more non-renewable primary energy in 2030 than it did in 2008, based on previous analyses (updated and summarized in this report), it is estimated that 35 to 40 percent of this goal, or a savings of 3.4 to 3.9 quads annually, could be achieved through aggressive deployment of geothermal heat pumps. Geothermal heat pumps could also avoid the need to build 91 to 105 GW of electricity generation capacity, or 42 to 48 percent of the 218 GW of net new capacity additions projected to be needed nationwide by 2030. In addition, $33 to 38 billion annually in reduced utility bills (at 2006 rates) could be achieved through aggressive deployment of geothermal heat pumps.

However, geothermal heat pumps have received little attention at the policy level as an important component of a national strategy. Have policymakers mistakenly overlooked geothermal heat pumps, or are geothermal heat pumps simply unable to make a major contribution to the national goals for various reasons? This brief study was undertaken at Department of Energy’s request to address this conundrum. The scope included determining the status of global GHP markets and the status of the geothermal heat pumps industry and technology in the United States, assembling previous estimates of GHP energy savings potential, identifying key barriers to application of geothermal heat pumps, and identifying actions that could accelerate market adoption of geothermal heat pumps.

View the report here: Geothermal Heat Pumps: Market status, barriers to adoption, and actions to overcome barriers.