No one likes a ban, but everyone likes an EXPO! 

Ken’s Corner – our regular column from UKIFDA CEO Ken Cronin

“Ban = To Prohibit”

In mid-August, George Eustice, the Cornish MP, wrote an article in the Telegraph, “Here is the key ingredient that could help rural homes reach net zero”. In the main, an entirely positive piece about how our rural customers could swap their fuel and reduce their carbon emissions, a position I am sure the vast majority of our industry would totally support. Entirely positive because it would go some way to meeting Government net zero commitments at reduced cost and disruption.

Ken's Corner February

In the same edition there was a different headline, “Tory revolt against ‘premature’ net zero ban on new oil boilers”.  At the time of writing, we have not seen the Government’s reaction, but they were warned that their policy would bring real hardship to rural communities in areas where their vote was strong. The policy, in comparison to the 2035 urban (gas) deadline, was always going to prove deeply unpopular. So, the second headline was not a surprise.

The articles were followed up in most mainstream newspapers and there was a lot of social media traffic. What I found most interesting was not the attention-grabbing headlines or the usual characters giving their top ten reasons why bio-oils (as they called them) are not a good idea. Rather, it was the posts in the commentary section below the articles, principally from our customers. Ultimately these are the important ones – these are the people that are affected the most. 

What came across very strongly was the utter hatred around the imposition of a ban and, secondly, the cost of the alternative. It is quite clear that no one likes a ban. No one wants to lose their freedom of choice, especially when the alternative is so costly. 

The maths is, ultimately, very simple. An average kerosene heated home uses c1,800 litres annually (c18,500kWh). At the current price (65ppl), this equates to an annual heating bill of £1,170. Taking the most up-to-date research and data (boiler efficiency 90%, 22% reduction in consumption due to associated insulation and a heat pump energy conversion factor of 2.8), a heat pump would consume c4,700kWh of electricity. At the current price (c30p/kWh), this equates to an annual heating bill of £1,410.

There are so many recent examples of bans proving deeply unpopular. In Scotland, the Deposit Return Scheme and the marine conservation orders are two. But even more in general day-to-day life – banning something like a book or a song has the opposite effect – more sales. I suspect that if the ban continues, then 2025 could be a bumper year for oil boiler sales!

I read somewhere that politicians often implement bans to solidify support from a particular group of their voters. In my opinion, the current government has not succeeded in this regard and may even be doing the opposite.

While I am not a psychologist, there is a much more important point here. It all started with a positive article about what we could do, how we can do it quickly and cheaply, and what is needed next, i.e., an alternative to a ban.  The narrative needs to change towards finding a pathway to decarbonisation that works and maintains fundamental freedom of choice. I am hopeful that, at the time of publication of this column, the Government has taken into account those comments and given careful consideration to presenting things more positively in the future.

Thank you

The article written by Mr Eustice was prompted by our Future Ready Fuel campaign, which went into top gear at the start of the summer when the Cornish MP put forward an amendment to the Energy Bill, which supports the use of Renewable Liquid Fuels for home heating.

I would like to thank the industry for stepping up and supporting UKIFDA and OFTEC. We know that thousands of letters have been sent to local MPs and this has had a significant impact.

EXPO: “Changing Times = Future Opportunities”

This month we have launched EXPO 2024 in Liverpool (I can’t quite believe it has been 18 months since the last one!). 

We have themed the event Changing Times = Future Opportunities to reflect where the industry is now. In the rear view mirror is the pandemic and the impact of the invasion of Ukraine. However, there is plenty in front of us, plenty of thinking to be done and plenty of opportunity, and I hope we can bring this together in Liverpool. 

These events are only as good as the support in the room, and I am very grateful to the 60 companies that have already agreed to exhibit, and we have secured a number of top draw sponsors.

There is still room to fill, and many opportunities, which we will promote across the next few months. 

We have built so much momentum as an industry working together over the last few years, and I’m sure this event will act as the next super booster stage on our journey.