OFTEC Tells Government ‘Urgent Change Needed To Secure UK’s Low Carbon

OFTEC has submitted recommendations to the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, calling for a total re-think on the UK’s low carbon heat strategy to instead focus on incentivising solutions that are simple, affordable to install, impose limited disruption on the home owner and offer competitive running costs.

In the document, provided in response to an inquiry about home energy efficiency and demand reduction, OFTEC highlighted that the 100% renewable heating solutions pushed by government can provide a very real and workable solution for some properties such as new builds, and will undoubtedly play a role in the UK’s future heating mix. However, in reality these technologies are currently too expensive and impractical for the vast majority of UK households to realistically consider installing.

This is why the flagging domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme has failed to make a significant impact on carbon reduction as it focuses on switching consumers to 100% renewable technologies and bearing the high upfront cost, rather than encouraging a more pragmatic, stepped transition to low carbon heat.

OFTEC director general Jeremey Hawksley explains: “OFTEC is committed to working towards a low carbon future for heating and recognises that 100% renewable technologies can work very well in some properties. This is why we have introduced our renewable registrations to help technicians expand their businesses into the green sector and ensure they can advise customers on the full range of heating solutions available to provide the right solution each time.

“However, the poor energy efficiency of the UK’s housing stock, particularly older, rural, off grid homes, plus the high upfront cost of renewable technologies of between £9,000 and £17,000, means the majority of UK households just aren’t in the position to make this large leap towards wholly renewable heating, even with incentive payments. A change of approach is clearly needed.”

Cost will remain a key driving factor for most people and the current low price of oil makes switching to expensive renewables even less attractive for many off gas grid households. According to latest figures from the Sutherland Tables*, the annual cost of heating an average three bedroom home on oil is now just £793 compared to £1,453 with an air source heat pump.

OFTEC’s recommendations to government for a new, more workable approach to low carbon heat include a funded boiler replacement programme to encourage consumers to upgrade to modern condensing models. For an average four bedroom home, the move could reduce annual fuel consumption by up to 24% (- 784 litres p.a.) and cut CO2 emissions by 33% (- 2418 kg p.a.). With over 600,000 standard efficiency boilers still in use across Great Britain, the potential for carbon reduction via this simple, cost effective route is huge.

OFTEC also suggests the promotion of bio-liquids as a low carbon alternative to oil. Following successful trials of B30k – a blend of 30% FAME and 70% kerosene – OFTEC believes all current oil using homes could convert to the bio-fuel with minimal disruption as it can used to power existing boilers, and at a much lower cost than the 100% renewable technologies currently favoured by government.

Jeremy Hawksley comments: “DECC declined to support bio-liquids in the domestic RHI because at the time its policy was to drive all rural households onto wholly renewable heating solutions. Given the low take up of the RHI to date and government’s pledge to reform the scheme, we strongly suggest DECC re-examines the case for bio-liquids going forward.”

The failure of the Green Deal and poor response to the domestic RHI also show that without buy-in from the majority of SME installer businesses, schemes don’t work and only serve to demotivate both industry and consumers from investing in energy efficiency measures and renewable heat.

Jeremy Hawksley continues: “Installers can play a crucial role as advocates for low carbon heating solutions but with so much red tape and cost currently involved, many are being put off. These are the people who have most contact with consumers and so could effectively promote energy audits and the installation of energy efficiency measures. We would like to see government harness the power of technicians by including them in the roll out of future policies.”Oftec Logo

Jeremy Hawksley concludes: “DECC has already stated that its challenge is to ‘reduce CO2 emissions in the most cost effective way’ with a priority to ‘keep bills as low as possible for hardworking families and businesses’. This is the stance we have championed from the outset.

“Our recommended strategy would have a much needed, immediate impact on carbon reduction and energy efficiency in the UK. It may not accomplish the dramatic switch to 100% renewable heating technologies which the government has been pushing for but it is a realistic approach which would appeal to the majority rather the minority. And by achieving mass consumer support, the results will be far further reaching.”

 

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