The Environmental Audit Committee launched its inquiry into Energy Efficiency of Existing Homes in May and wanted views on such things as the potential risks and opportunities of bringing forward the government’s energy efficiency target, if energy efficiency should be legislated for and how effective EPC ratings are.
The Low Carbon Heat consultation called for views on how the UK can achieve its net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 – and the decarbonisation of heat is seen as among the biggest challenges the government faces in meeting this climate goal.
UKIFDA chief executive Guy Pulham comments; “We absolutely agree that government support on energy efficiency measures is required – both on and off-gas grid – that encourage consumers to upgrade existing equipment, improve insulation and install smart controls to better monitor energy usage and have been lobbying the government on offering support for these measures. We believe that these measures are vital in moving homes upwards through the EPC ratings and thereby reducing emissions although care needs to be taken that the disadvantaged, such as the fuel poor, are not excluded.”
What about liquid biofuels?
Commenting on the low carbon heat consultation UKIFDA technical manager Tony Brown said; “Whilst we always welcome any news on low carbon heat options and decarbonisation innovations, we are disappointed there is no mention of liquid biofuels in this consultation.
“It is clear from these and previous government consultations that the focus is on heat pumps, which is a great shame and a source of frustration for UKIFDA, our members, and the heating oil industry as a whole, as we believe liquid biofuels can and should be part of the long-term solution and therefore need to feature in future energy policies.
“Liquid biofuels offer a practical, affordable and effective solution which addresses all of the government’s key requirements: to keep energy bills low; cost effectively reduce carbon emissions; ensure a secure, resilient energy supply; bring economic benefits and avoid unreasonable upfront costs for consumers.”
Low carbon and lower cost
Guy Pulham adds; “Households are already dealing with the financial strain caused by COVID-19 – and to impose further costs now seems out of the reach for many off-grid homeowners.
“Instead of concentrating on expensive solutions such as heat pumps that many households simply can’t afford, the government needs to implement solutions in energy that are fair to all households. With a competitive marketplace that has a variety of energy options in place this would lower costs and provide a variety of low carbon options for an array of needs and budgets.
“Liquid biofuels offer an accessible, flexible solution for many off-gas grid consumers, providing a low-cost and low carbon heat option that matches the fabric of their buildings – and we feel strongly that they should play a role in the future of heating.
“Even with the proposed Clean Heat Grant mentioned in the recent consultation and the energy saving vouchers announced by the Chancellor in his summer statement, households face a big initial outlay to make the energy efficiency improvements that enable technologies like heat pumps to be retrofitted.
Managing initial costs
“The costs provided by BEIS in recent consultations do not consider the additional expense for many households of making improvements to the existing building fabric if they were to install heat pumps. Furthermore, 97% of oil heated homes in Great Britain are in the lowest EPC bands D-G, and rural consumers have less disposable income and endure greater fuel poverty as well.
“We would encourage government to consider a boiler scrappage scheme as well as offering grants for insulation, new windows etc. A government supported nationwide scheme to replace older oil boilers with energy efficient condensing boilers would both reduce heating bills whilst also making a significant contribution to reducing CO2 emissions. These boilers could also be adapted in the future for liquid biofuel.
“If oil heated households received the £4000 grant announced by Rishi Sunak recently this would cover the cost of a new liquid biofuel tank and condensing boiler for the average off grid home and the advantage is there is no need for immediate improvements to the fabric of the building to make it work. This way homeowners can save emissions, reduce ongoing heating costs, and then make further improvements if needed to the fabric of the building at a later date but at a pace that suits their pocket.
A need for technology neutrality
“It is only when the government is technology neutral that the full potential of supporting consumers transitioning to low carbon heat can be reached. Rather than just focusing on certain elements of net zero, government should encourage development of new technology in current infrastructures rather than simply stating a ban from x date.
“Whilst we understand the government’s position on not wanting to encourage new oil boilers, a pathway for liquid biofuels should be allowed to continue in the intermediate term whilst alternative fuel is developed like that by main gas and other sectors. It is clearly not right that sectors are not given the same tolerance when product can be made available to reduce the emissions and help meet government net zero targets.”