Urgent re-think on carbon reduction policies needed, says OFTEC, following cuts to green energy subsidies

On the back of government plans to reduce ‘out of control’ green energy costs, OFTEC says it’s time to look at more pragmatic and affordable ways to reduce carbon emissions and heating bills.

Last week DECC announced there will be no further funding available for the Green Deal and Green Deal Home Improvement Fund (GDHIF) schemes, alongside sweeping cuts to subsidies for the renewable energy sector.

Qualifying the moves, energy and climate change secretary Amber Rudd, said the government’s priority was to ‘keep bills as low as possible for hardworking families and businesses’ and to ‘reduce emissions in the most cost effective way’.

This is a sentiment OFTEC has supported from the outset but inadequate energy efficiency and carbon reduction schemes such as Green Deal and the failing domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) clearly show that, to date, the government has been using the wrong vehicles to achieve its aims.

OFTEC says a complete re-think on carbon reduction and energy efficiency policies in the UK is what’s needed and that consumers would be far more receptive to more affordable, easier to implement measures.

These should be led by an all-inclusive boiler scrappage scheme for gas and oil boilers to incentivise the take up of high efficiency condensing models which can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 30% and significantly cut energy bills – in addition to the current cost savings from consistently low oil prices.

An estimated two thirds of oil heated households in Great Britain still use standard efficiency non-condensing boilers, equating to approximately 600,000 units, so the potential for carbon savings via this route is huge. A similar, highly successful scheme is currently running in Northern Ireland which has seen more than 13,350 new condensing oil boilers installed between September 2012 and March 2015.

Jeremy Hawksley, director general at OFTEC, comments: “The government seems to be finally recognising that its current energy efficiency and carbon reduction policies simply aren’t fit for purpose. Green Deal failed to deliver its potential and the extremely low take up of the domestic RHI just serves to highlight the lack of appetite most consumers have for expensive renewable technologies - even with government support.

“Instead of encouraging people to completely change their heating systems which can be both costly and complicated, the government should be pushing more affordable, easier to implement measures such as a boiler scrappage scheme. The approach is working extremely well in Northern Ireland and with so many old oil boilers in need of an upgrade in Great Britain, a similar scheme could result in significant carbon savings as well as help reduce heating costs.

“When outlining DECC’s priorities for 2015, Amber Rudd said her focus was ‘much more on carbon reduction targets, which are more essential than the renewable energy targets’. We couldn’t agree more. We need to find practical ways of reducing CO2 emissions which will capture consumers’ interest - and help them save money - rather than pushing costly renewables which are only viable for the wealthy few.”

Further carbon reduction measures proposed by OFTEC include more funding to improve insulation levels in UK homes, which are amongst the least energy efficient in Western Europe, and incentivising consumers to use bio-liquids such as B30K.

Jeremy Hawksley concludes: “With the Treasury planning to invest £100 billion in infrastructure over the next five years, it’s time to look at the UK’s current housing stock and how the energy efficiency of these homes can be improved.

“We fully support the Energy Bill Revolution’s proposal to use a small proportion of this money to provide zero interest loans to better insulate homes, particularly those in rural areas which often run on oil, as they tend to be older properties with the lowest energy efficiency ratings.

“With a new government it’s time for change and to look realistically at strategies which will actually deliver the carbon savings the UK urgently needs to reach its ambitious 2050 reduction targets.”

Ends.