OFTEC receives BEIS support for future green off-grid heating plans

OFTEC has welcomed a positive response from the Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry, Claire Perry MP, after putting forward strong concerns over the viability of government plans to decarbonise heating from the 850,000 oil using homes in England.

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) plans, outlined in the ‘Clean Growth Strategy’ published last year, propose a preference for moving rural households currently using oil heating to electrically driven heat pumps as an early phase of efforts to cut carbon emissions from the heating sector.

However, in a reply to a letter from OFTEC, Claire Perry indicated that BEIS was still willing to consider other decarbonisation options and expected ‘to see a mix of technologies into the future’. 

OFTEC’s letter summarised the trade association’s concerns about government plans for decarbonising off-grid heat and made a strong case for other possibilities to be considered. Drawing on extensive knowledge of the off-grid heating sector, OFTEC believes BEIS’ plans are:

  • Ill-considered – because the heat solution proposed (heat pumps) is expensive and difficult to implement in many existing rural homes;
  • Unfair – because it unreasonably imposes a financial burden on oil-using rural homeowners;
  • Anti-competitive – it is not for Government to stipulate how consumers heat their homes, nor to compel them to purchase a particular energy source;
  • Premature – because appropriate solutions for off-grid homes are not yet available and;
  • Inconsistent – because heating emissions from other high carbon fuels such as natural gas, LPG, and one-to-one electricity are not being targeted.

OFTEC CEO Paul Rose cautiously welcomed the letter: “I’m pleased that BEIS appears willing to consider other options. OFTEC was particularly concerned that Government had already decided on its preferred solution for decarbonising England’s 850,000 oil-using homes without fully considering the practicalities and impact on homeowners - or the other options available.

“BEIS’ plans fail to address the reality of the situation. While suitable for some, electrification is currently not a practical heating solution for many rural homes without wholesale and expensive energy efficiency improvements.

“Proceeding with this expensive approach could have serious financial implications for many families without considerable government support to help the majority of homeowners meet the substantial installation costs of heat pumps or improve insulation standards.

“This becomes even more of an issue when you consider the higher proportion of rural households currently living in fuel poverty compared to urban areas*. How are these families who are already struggling to make ends meet expected to find the money to fund an expensive new renewable heating system?

“We fear this would in turn, further increase the already scandalously high number of elderly and vulnerable people who die each winter because they can’t afford to keep warm.

“Decarbonising the off-gas grid heating sector is a must - but it can’t be at the expense of people’s health or their financial well-being. We were therefore pleased to receive a constructive response from the Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry.”

The rise of alternative fuels

The correspondence from Claire Perry also encouraged continuation of OFTEC’s work to bring to market a low carbon liquid fuel as an alternative to kerosene for a decarbonised off gas grid heating sector.

Paul Rose continues: “It is encouraging that our voice has been heard and our efforts to champion the interests of our industry and liquid fuel users have made an impression.

“The Clean Growth Strategy states that ‘Decarbonising heat is our most difficult policy and technology challenge to meet our carbon targets’. It is certainly a challenge but we remain convinced that a reduced carbon liquid fuel is a viable solution. We will continue to work with members, the oil distribution sector and others to make an alternative fuel available that strikes a balance of affordability, practicality, carbon reduction and sustainability.

“Industry will also continue to develop the next generation of appliances to ensure they meet the increasingly stringent standards for efficiency and emissions.”

*DECC Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics Report 2016

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