OFTEC’s head of communications Malcolm Farrow
The trade association is hosting virtual fringe events to engage directly with MPs on future off-grid decarbonisation policy during ‘Labour Connected’ on Monday 21 September and the Conservative Party Conference on Sunday 4 October.
Both sessions will see OFTEC joined by a panel of speakers to discuss the steps needed to secure an affordable, fair transition to low carbon heat.
The Labour event line-up includes shadow minister for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Alan Whitehead, and director of policy and research at National Energy Action (NEA), Peter Smith.
Visitors to the Conservative event will also hear from NEA, with chief executive Adam Scorer joining the panel alongside Guy Newey, strategy and performance director at Energy Catapult Systems.
Discussions will include which technologies and policies offer the most cost-effective, practical route to net zero and how heat decarbonisation can be achieved without exacerbating existing social challenges.
OFTEC’s head of communications Malcolm Farrow, who will be speaking at the fringe events, said: “This is a crucial time in the formation of heat policy and it’s vital government does not repeat the same mistakes.
“Despite six years of subsidy through the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive, heat pumps - the recommended solution for rural homes - remain financially and practically out of reach for most with just 1% of off-grid households installing these technologies since 2014 through the scheme.
“Many rural properties are older and poorly insulated which makes them unsuitable for heat pumps without significant investment – which unsurprisingly puts consumers off. Off-grid households are also more likely to have lower incomes, little or no savings and suffer deeper levels of fuel poverty, so are among those most in need of low carbon heating solutions they can afford to implement.”
OFTEC says that failing to support the right decarbonisation solutions now would be a recipe for disaster and a new way forward is needed.
Introducing technology neutral emissions targets that low carbon heating solutions had to meet would open the market to more practical, cost effective options such as renewable liquid fuels. This approach would offer consumers all important choice and, if coupled with targeted support to help households make the switch, stand a far greater chance of success.
Trials in homes across Europe, alongside UK industry testing, show that second generation renewable liquid fuel, Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO), offers a simple drop-in replacement for heating oil at a fraction of the cost of installing an air source heat pump. Crucially, this fossil free, sustainable liquid fuel has the potential to deliver the highest carbon reduction levels of all other low carbon heating technologies currently available.
HVO is already available in the UK and global supply is increasing fast. With the right policy support, UK industry could scale up domestic production and deployment to meet the heating requirements of rural homes well within the net zero timeframes.
Malcolm Farrow concludes: “The window of opportunity for policy change is closing and it’s essential the chance to secure a just low carbon future for rural homes is not missed. We hope our presence at the party conference events will help to amplify the policy opportunities in this important area.”