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Saturday, December 2, 2023
Dec. 2, 2023

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Heat pumps key to WA, coalition’s plan to end building emissions


SEATTLE — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee vowed this week to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from new buildings, in large part by rapidly expanding the installation of heat pumps, officials from the U.S. Climate Alliance announced Thursday in a news release.

Inslee is joined in that promise by 24 other governors representing states that belong to the Climate Alliance (of which the Washington governor is a founding member). In all, the governors agreed to install 20 million new heat pumps across their states by 2030.

“We are in a climate emergency and the window to act is closing,” Inslee said in the release. “Heat pumps are available and affordable, not to mention better for the air we breathe. So our commitment today is good for our planet, and good for our people.”

The goals set by the alliance fit more broadly alongside attempts to combat the worst effects of climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Electric heat pumps effectively harvest warmth from outside air and transfer it indoors or, during the summer months, operate in reverse to keep temperatures low.

Some heat pump installations are already eligible for tax credits through the Inflation Reduction Act, which Congress passed in 2022. In addition, about $75 million of money raised by Washington’s Climate Commitment Act could go toward incentives for low-income families looking to replace oil or gas furnaces with the pumps.

The governors agreed Thursday that at least 40% of their efforts to expand heat pump installation would go toward disadvantaged communities, the alliance’s release said.

A spokesperson for Inslee could not immediately say whether the governor’s latest commitment would mean setting aside additional money for heat pumps or whether Washington could meet that goal with current funding.

The overall push for heat pumps fits in as part of a larger goal to decarbonize existing buildings and to prevent emissions with new construction “as soon as practicable,” the release said.

Buildings are Washington’s second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, pumping out an estimated 27% of the state’s emissions. Transportation is the state’s biggest source at about 44%.

Alongside several other states, Inslee agreed to consider zero-emission standards for space- and water-heating equipment and to phase out fossil fuel heating and cooling in new construction by 2027, the release said.

The governor also agreed to develop new energy-efficient building codes to make way for broader electrification, support solar generation and better prepare for more electric vehicles.

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