FPS warns of the dangers of making early technology decisions for heating

FPS chief executive Guy Pulham and Ireland representative Nick Hayes are keen to meet up with minister Richard Bruton to discuss the opportunity of setting up a working group

Responding to the first draft of Ireland’s National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) the Federation of Petroleum Suppliers (FPS) has not only written to Richard Bruton, Irish minister for communications, climate action and the environment, but also requested a meeting to discuss how the association can work with government to help reduce Ireland’s carbon footprint.

The FPS and its members feel strongly that oil and – more long-term – a liquid efuel and/or bio fuel, can be part of the phased solution and the association has been working closely with the European Confederation of Fuel Distributors (ECFD), boiler manufacturers and other trade associations to promote a liquid bio fuel.

“Our members play an important role in the Irish economy in supplying not only heating oil for homes and businesses but also fuel for agriculture, construction, road transport, marine fuels and importantly fuel for back-up generators for hospitals, schools, care homes and data centres,” said Nick Hayes, FPS Ireland representative.

“Several demonstration projects with heating systems running on partly renewable liquid fuels are already in place across Europe, achieving substantial levels of emissions reduction so it is disappointing that this potential is not mentioned in the minister’s recent statement.

“The minister says that at least 170,000 homes will be supported to switch from oil-fired boilers to heat pumps and solar panels.  I would appreciate understanding the rationale for this figure and the technology assigned for the switch. There is a danger in making early technology decisions and also in only concentrating on a small section of oil-fired homes when industry innovation can help all oil-fired homes.”

“We have in the UK set up a working group with the government alongside different sections of the supply chain with representation from trade associations for refineries, boiler manufacturers and installers and tank storage,” added Guy Pulham, FPS chief executive.

“This working group has been welcomed by the government in providing information and ideas on action to be taken to meet carbon reduction targets in off gas grid buildings and we would welcome the opportunity of setting up a working group with minister Bruton.

“We are not trying to protect the heating oil industry at all costs and we recognise and support the Irish Government’s work to meet carbon reduction targets but our members believe that a liquid fuel should have a major role in meeting the future needs of off grid homes. There is ample supply, an effective distribution network and low-cost installation requirements to use oil for heating and cooking. These are excellent benefits which could be retained using a bio or carbon neutral liquid fuel.”

Ongoing running costs continue to be good versus electric solutions and this is supported by the recent figures released by Sutherland Tables, a recognised independent source of comparative domestic heating prices, who say the average annual cost of heating a three-bedroom home in Ireland with heating oil is €1,594 per year when the same house to heat using electric storage heaters is €2,153 per annum. Oil is also far cheaper than air source heat pumps (with radiators) at €1,890 per year and LPG €2,296.

The social implications for having a dependence on one technology are also important and should not be understated. With 400,000 households in Ireland in fuel poverty, replacing oil with high capital/high running cost alternatives will directly affect those people most in need.

The FPS believes the government should look at a tiered approach to achieving the 2050 carbon reduction target, setting a pathway of home heating carbon emission reductions. That way industry can adapt all aspects of technological innovation thereby providing the means for consumers to make cost competitive choices in meeting those targets. A change to the standard specifications of the fuel would also give industry time to implement innovative solutions.

“Such a pathway would also give consumers the opportunity to make short term efficiencies such as replacing old oil boilers now,” added Guy Pulham.

“Highly efficient, oil-fired condensing heating systems save up to 30% of fuel oil, and by adding smart meters to tanks and installing better insulation in homes further efficiencies can be achieved. We urge minister Bruton to meet with us and discuss a pathway forward.”

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