Industry is “primed for renewable liquid fuel rollout” says OFTEC

The renewable liquid fuel heating industry is ready and waiting to deliver a nationwide rollout of its low carbon solution for off-grid properties, once the policy mechanisms are put in place by the new government after the election.

That was the message from OFTEC’s annual conference, held in Tewkesbury on 5 June 2024 in the midst of the election campaign, which saw delegates from across the liquid fuel heating industry gather to discuss the next steps for decarbonising the off-grid sector.

OFTEC Chairman Martin Cooke opened the conference, recognising how the industry has worked together to successfully demonstrate the viability of Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) as a practical and affordable low carbon solution for off-grid homes and businesses.

It follows a positive year which has seen the government commit to publishing a consultation on a Renewable Liquid Heating Fuel Obligation and growing support amongst consumers and rural MPs for the fuel to help drive the UK’s net zero ambitions.

The first speaker at the event was Paul Rose, OFTEC CEO, who highlighted that all the technical and logistical aspects to a rollout of HVO had been demonstrated and the only remaining barrier was policy support from the government.

He reiterated the continued ambition to offer the fuel to every oil heated home in the UK and the current research and consideration into whether a kerosene/HVO blend could be rolled out as an initial stepping stone to speed up widespread adoption.

Ken Cronin, CEO of UKIDA, then spoke about the availability of HVO and the interlinked government policy on kerosene based fuel for the aviation sector.

He also outlined UKIFDA and OFTEC’s continued engagement ahead of the election where the trade associations are calling for a commitment from the next government to publish the RLHFO consultation as a priority once in office.

OFTEC and UKIFDA are also urging the next government to rectify the existing tax inequalities. Currently, the use of renewable liquid fuels for home heating is taxed but fossil fuels are not. Conservatives and Labour are being urged to commit to equalising the tax duties for renewable liquid fuels to remove this potential barrier to take up.

The next speaker at the conference was OFTEC’s Ireland Manager David Blevings. He outlined the broad policy similarities in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and the proactive engagement with both governments on the respective heat strategies.

Malcolm Farrow, head of public affairs at OFTEC, then shared the findings from a recent survey of oil heated households where 85% of respondents said the government and opposition party policies on decarbonisation will influence how they cast their vote at the ballot box.

Concluding the conference, John Weedon, from fuel distributors Mitchell & Webber, provided a unique insight into the village of Kehelland in Cornwall where dozens of properties have been using HVO for the past two years.

Local residents in the community recently met with the Energy Security and Net Zero Select Committee who visited the village to see first hand the impact HVO has had in cutting emissions in properties which would have been unable to switch to a heat pump.

Paul Rose, OFTEC CEO, commented: “This general election marks a significant turning point for the millions of households living off the gas grid. Whichever party forms the next government is going to have to deliver practical and affordable low carbon heating solutions if it is serious about decarbonisation in the current economic climate.

“Our industry is unique as we not only have a tried and tested technological solution, but we also have the infrastructure in place and an existing skilled workforce to deliver it at scale and at speed. All we need is the next government to give us the green light.

“We are seeing huge enthusiasm from consumers who want to play their part in tackling emissions by transitioning to a renewable liquid fuel. The government has been kicking the can down the road. That’s why we continue to explore options, including an initial kerosene/HVO blend, so we can rollout this fuel even quicker to more properties.”