Yesterday we heated our houses by burning gas (of which in Germany 55% came from Russia). Today we should use heat pumps instead – in new and existing buildings: They take ¾ of the energy from the environment and ¼ from electricity. As we show in SoLAR in Allensbach, heat pumps can also adapt their electricity consumption to the availability of renewables (sun and wind), avoiding the need for expensive electricity storage.
Germany plans to build new gas power plants to keep the grid stable. This would continue our gas import dependence for decades into the future. Instead, it should focus on demand side flexibility that is carbon free and growing quickly. The SoLAR team estimates that household fridges and freezers alone could provide a major part of the control power to keep electric grids stable.
The transition to hydrogen foresees a “bridge” by natural gas until green hydrogen becomes feasible. Depending on the speed of renewable installation until surplus generation becomes available, this “bridge” could be very long and cement our fossil dependence for decades. Instead, fast decarbonisation of heating (heat pumps) and mobility (EVs) will have a better climate impact, create more jobs and increase demand side flexibility that reduces gas dependence.
Electricity produced from sun and wind depends on weather, so gas powered plants need to fill the gaps. If we charge cars, run heat pumps and operate energy consuming processes at the times when sun and wind are abundant, they need less energy when sun and wind are not available: We thus need less gas for the power plants.
Energy production from fossils (including gas) can be replaced by renewables (solar and wind). We show that we can also replace its steerability by the flexibility of energy consumers such as heat pumps, electric vehicle charging, even household appliances. This means less gas is needed, whether as import of natural gas or “green hydrogen” that will become practical in the future when a much larger renewable production base has been installed.