Time for open debate on off grid heat decarbonisation, says OFTEC

Any consultation arising from the government’s long anticipated Heat in Buildings strategy must allow a genuine discussion on all the options to decarbonise rural homes, otherwise thousands of households could suffer severe financial consequences, warns OFTEC.

Up until now, government has given out mixed messages on its approach to cutting emissions from off grid heat, using the term ‘technology neutral’ whilst only supporting a narrow choice of technology options, primarily heat pumps and biomass boilers.

These solutions work well in some settings and heat pumps, in particular, will play an important role in the UK’s transition to net zero. But they are expensive to install and not the right option for all properties, including many energy inefficient off-grid homes without very costly and disruptive insulation improvements.

OFTEC says it’s crucial government recognises the unique challenge decarbonising rural homes presents and that any future consultation fully explores the best ways to achieve this.

Head of Public Affairs at OFTEC, Malcolm Farrow, comments:

“What we don’t want to see – and what rural consumers can’t afford to happen – is that the Buildings and Heat consultation, through its line of questioning, makes it impossible to bring the full range of low carbon heating options into the discussion.

“If the government is serious about making rapid – and socially fair – progress, it must widen its perspective and adopt a truly technology neutral approach. This is the only way to encourage competition, improve consumer choice and ensure practical options are available for all housing types and incomes.

“Failing to achieve this could be disastrous for rural households as many will face a completely unaffordable financial burden. As well as causing great social harm, it could also rapidly erode support for decarbonisation and will further delay progress.”

Over 45 key players in the off-grid heating industry have already written to the Minister of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) underlining their readiness to deliver a renewable liquid fuel alternative to kerosene which offers a cheaper, more practical solution for oil heated homes than the current options supported. Yet so far, government has shown little interest in this solution.

Malcolm Farrow continues:

“Renewable liquid fuels must be given a fair hearing in any consultation. If government continues to ignore the potential of this solution, it is turning its back on the opportunity to save rural households and the Treasury, millions of pounds. This makes no sense.

“Government needs to learn from the experience of the last six years which has shown that even with considerable incentivisation through the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive, the take up of heat pumps by rural households has remained disappointingly low.

“Now is the time to set aside any preconceived ideas around the ‘best’ solutions for off-grid households, genuinely listen to all the options on the table and trust industry to deliver.”

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