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UKIFDA advocates liquid biofuels for low carbon future

Liquid fuels distribution trade association, the UK and Ireland Fuel Distributors Association (UKIFDA) has submitted its views on both UK and Isle of Man Government consultations relating to the 2050 target for net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Guy Pulham, UKIFDA chief executive

The UK consultation closed on 4 September and called for evidence on how the effectiveness of policies for energy-related products in homes and businesses can support the UK's transition to net zero, while the Isle of Man's Climate Change Bill consultation set out how the island's Government will achieve its decarbonisation target.

Guy Pulham, UKIFDA chief executive, said: 'We welcome both Governments' consultations and greatly hope that our views on the important role liquid biofuels should play in future UK policies and in the transitioning to low carbon heating for Isle of Man homeowners are listened to.

'Today's UK Government energy policies do not focus on liquid biofuels as being part of the solution when it comes to achieving net zero by 2050. Similarly, the Isle of Man Climate Change Bill focuses on electrification as the solution for meeting net zero - both approaches are disappointing as replacing heating oil with liquid biofuels would drastically cut carbon emissions with relatively small costs and inconvenience for homeowners.

'We believe biofuels can and should be part of the long-term solution and therefore need to feature in policies on energy-related products in homes and businesses and as part of the Isle's plan for decarbonisation.'

The UK consultation focussed on eco-design and energy labelling, whether higher standards of efficiency for certain products should be set, and ways to increase uptake of energy efficient products.

'With regard to heating systems, we've urged the Government to look again at options for the 1.5 million homes across the UK currently using oil,' Mr Pulham commented.

'Thanks to the development of oil boilers over the years, high efficiency condensing oil boilers have been 90% more efficient on average and upgrading to one is a great way to cut running costs, enjoying a fuel saving of up to 25% and a reduction in CO2 emissions by up to 25%.

'The fantastic benefit of a condensing boiler is homeowners can make the savings today, whilst the development of drop-in liquid biofuels progresses - and simply switch from heating oil to low-carbon biofuels in the future.

'The low-carbon heating technology market needs to be competitive so that everyone can afford the options on offer. UKIFDA and our members urge policymakers to acknowledge the positive contribution liquid biofuels can make and that it is vitally important the energy mix is varied so consumers are free to choose a technology that matches their needs, budget and conscience.

'This is true for the Isle of Man too and we urge the Isle's Government to detail planned steps in their Climate Change Bill rather than one major heating system change that is costly for homeowners. We want the Government to work with industry to ensure all potential energy solutions are considered and that the market is kept competitive.

'In studies carried out recently by trade association OFTEC and consultants In Perpetuum (2019), liquid biofuels offered the most efficient and cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions in off-gas grid homes due to the fabric and build type of these properties. There is often costly retrofitting to homes to make them thermally efficient and suitable for heat pumps or biomass technology, but with biofuels there is minimum disruption and costs because liquid biofuels can simply be dropped-in in place of heating oil.

'Interim steps are better with regard to encouraging consumers to cut their carbon footprint,' added Mr Pulham.

'In our view, heat pumps are not suitable for a large proportion of off-grid homes without considerable expense to homeowners - whereas step changes such as improving insulation, upgrading to a condensing oil boiler, and maintaining the current heating system so it runs efficiently, will all reduce both carbon emissions and costs straightaway and pave the way for bigger changes once the development of liquid biofuels has progressed.

'Furthermore, for the Isle of Man, there are questions on whether the existing electrification infrastructure can cope and whether the Isle will be able to generate the electricity renewably.

'The Governments needs to understand the benefits of liquid biofuel technology as liquid fuel boilers require less fuel and energy to maintain an acceptable level of heat compared to a heat pump.'

UKIFDA technical manager Tony Brown commented further on the UK policy consultation: 'With regard to other aspects of the consultation, we disagree on the tightening of minimum energy efficiency levels above the existing 92% as this would entail moving away from the current boiler design and involve a significant amount of work to allow consumers to adopt a change like this.

'We do, however, believe that raising the minimum energy efficiency of a boiler would help the transition to net zero. Encouraging the uptake of modern blue/green flame oil boilers is one idea, as these are able to run on other fuel such as liquid biofuel. You can change the fuel without changing the heating system as a 30% blend of biofuel with kerosene would work with oil condensing boilers and infrastructure with minimum tweaks.'

Mr Pulham concluded: 'Ultimately, UKIFDA wants the UK Government to include biofuels within its future energy-related products policies and the Isle of Man Government to include liquid biofuels as part of their plan to meet net zero by 2050.

'Consumer housing, budgets and the running costs of the new technologies should all be considered if there is to be significant uptake of low carbon heating options that are accessible for all - and in order to help achieve the UK and Isle of Man's decarbonisation targets.'

14 September 2020

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