Industry calls for more clarity from government on decarbonisation plans


When it comes to government policy, the devil is in the detail. This is particularly true of heat policy where concerns over a lack of clarity have led OFTEC and Federation of Petroleum Suppliers (FPS) to write to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) minister, Claire Perry, demanding answers to some key questions.

As reported in the last issue of Oil Installer, the two trade associations (OFTEC and FPS) have been meeting BEIS officials regularly to plan how to decarbonise the emissions from oil heating. Three meetings have taken place so far and some progress has been made. However, without answers to some key issues, the trade associations have concluded that it will be difficult for the oil heating industry to bring effective solutions to the table. Worse still, the potential also exists for oil’s competitors to exploit the confusion in ways that are bad for consumers and that could even slow down progress with decarbonisation.

  • OFTEC and FPS have asked for clarification from the minister on four key points:
    The definition of what constitutes ‘high carbon’ and ‘low carbon’. The term ‘high carbon fossil fuels’ first appeared in the government’s Clean Growth Strategy (CGS) in 2017 where the government said oil and coal were in this category. However, it didn’t define ‘low carbon’ – which means their target is unclear. OFTEC and FPS believe that it makes no sense to categorise only some forms of fossil fuel heating as ‘high carbon’ because it could lead to unintended outcomes such as the replacement of one fossil fuel with another – for example LPG replacing oil – which would be costly for the homeowner for little benefit.
  • That efforts are focussed on decarbonising the fuel, rather than the appliance or system. In the CGS the government wrote of its “ambition to phase out the installation of high carbon fossil fuel heating during the 2020s” which places attention on the appliance when the emissions really stem from the fuel it uses. It has also allowed at least one heat pump company to falsely claim that oil heating will be banned completely from 2030 (see story on opposite page).
  • What is expected to be delivered by industry and by when. To develop a credible plan for the deployment of liquid biofuel, industry needs to have a clear understanding of the government’s ambition to ensure that any proposal is appropriate.
  • Whether the government’s early focus on off-grid heating is because they see it as a pilot or ‘testbed’ for low carbon technologies ahead of potential wider roll-out. OFTEC and FPS believe this approach would be very misguided because off-grid homes, and the issues rural households face, are very different to those in urban areas. Such an approach could place off-grid households at greater risk of receiving bad installations due to poor work practices or the inappropriate use of technologies. In our opinion, the best way to decarbonise most off-grid homes is through the deployment of biofuels.

OFTEC has commissioned a detailed study of biofuels and hopes to publish the outcomes of this research early in the New Year. More clarity on the potential of low carbon liquid fuels will open the way for more constructive talks with BEIS on how soon these fuels could be introduced to the market and what kind of support may be needed. Acceptance of their potential by BEIS would also provide a basis for industry to develop the essential long-term investment plans, carry out detailed trials and provide the kind of certainty that everyone needs – whether fuel suppliers, manufacturers, installers, servicing businesses or equipment owners.