01 Feb 2022
By Michael Sachse
There is an urgent need to diversify our energy sources by moving away from natural gas and towards electricity.
Fortunately, many people are working tirelessly to pursue this priority. Some energy transformation advocates are motivated by climate change, and others recognize that it's futile to rely on a finite resource as a long-term energy solution. Regardless of the reason, everyone knows that change is coming.
The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that natural gas resources will be depleted within the next 84 years, while the consequences of climate change require even more immediate and practical solutions.
Meanwhile, approximately half of US homes rely on natural gas for space and water heating, accounting for 15 percent of all-natural gas consumption. Collectively, more than half of a household's energy use is dedicated to space heating and air conditioning, making it a critical obstacle in the transition to effective, sustainable green energy sources.
With more than 78 million homes in the US relying on polluting fuels to heat and cool their homes, we need a solution that supplies demand without the punishing consequences of resource scarcity and climate change. When implemented in conjunction with existing utilities, geothermal heating and cooling presents a path forward, offering an efficient and affordable in-home solution.
Understanding Geothermal's Potential Market Impact
Geothermal heating and cooling, which replaces a home's existing air conditioning and heating equipment with an electric-powered heat pump that pulls from underground pipes to heat and cool the house, can help new and existing homes limit or eliminate their natural gas consumption.
Already, the technology exists to make geothermal an increasingly prominent heating and cooling solution for residential buildings. Today, it's possible to convert millions of homes to a cleaner, more sustainable heating and cooling apparatus that lowers costs, reduces emissions, and even improves health outcomes.
According to the EIA, a geothermal heating and cooling solution that relies on a ground source heat pump is the most effective way to heat and cool a residential building. Taken together, homeowners can expect to reduce environmental damage, eliminate carbon monoxide risk, improve indoor air quality, and enhance sustainability.
Today, the biggest challenge is installation. Identifying the best way to retrofit existing homes, including land drilling and structural outfitting, takes time, talent, and resources. In other words, geothermal's broad adoption won't happen with the flick of a switch. However, the right advocacy and investment can help homes transition away from natural gas, allowing more sustainable energy solutions to thrive.
Stakeholders, including policymakers, utilities, builders, and building owners, will play a prominent role in making geothermal heating and cooling solutions the status quo for existing structures and new builds.
Since the upfront costs of geothermal installation are one of the most significant obstacles to broad adoption, policymakers and utilities could consider introducing vouchers, tax credits, and other incentives to encourage more energy-efficient solutions.
To make geothermal heating and cooling a trajectory-altering technology, we need more financing options. This practice has made other green technologies, like solar panel installations, more feasible for the average homeowner, increasing their adoption at record rates.
Similar incentives for geothermal heating and cooling solutions can allow more people to participate with cascading implications for energy consumption trends.
In addition, policymakers should consider how to manifest geothermal's benefits in a timeframe that coincides with cost, which helps develop public support and continued adoption.
To its credit, Congress seems to have recognized this opportunity. The Build Back Better bill represents the largest policy investment in geothermal that we've ever seen. While it's only a start, it's a critical one.
Geothermal heating and cooling provides a compelling opportunity to reduce natural gas consumption by equipping new and existing homes with electric-powered technologies that reduce natural gas consumption without compromising amenities.
The Path to Mass Adoption
Ultimately, the path to mass adoption is predicated on affordability. Geothermal heating and cooling solutions must become less expensive. When affordable solutions are coupled with compelling financing options, mass adoption can proliferate, and the implications are enormous.
Of course, the financial cost and environmental impact of existing energy solutions make it increasingly urgent that we identify and develop new ways to promote geothermal heating and cooling options and other sustainable solutions. It's both a moral imperative and a practical necessity that demands our attention today.
Michael Sachse is the CEO of Dandelion Energy, a national home geothermal company. Dandelion uses high-performance equipment and a proprietary, low-cost installation process that allows homeowners to save money and help the environment by moving away from conventional heating and cooling methods.
Before joining Dandelion, Sachse was the Entrepreneur in Residence at New Enterprise Associates, a position that allowed him to cultivate growth opportunities in the startup space. A graduate of Amherst College and Harvard Law School, Sachse has served in multiple leadership positions across various organizations where he facilitated growth and operational maturation during his tenure.
Sachse sees sustainable living practices and environmental responsibility as foundational to our future and consequential to our collective good. Sachse's multifaceted background, including work in legal, nonprofit, governmental, and corporate environments, has informed his efforts to advocate for local rules and regulations that incentivize a greener, more sustainable future.
Dandelion Energy | dandelionenergy.com