Rural homes say government’s green heating plans are treating them unfairly

New survey reveals 90% of those living off the gas grid are concerned government heating proposals are treating them unfairly, with over 95% wanting greater choice of low carbon solutions.

Recent poll shows 9 in 10 rural homes believe plans to end fossil fuel heating installations will unfairly impact them.

The findings come ahead of the expected publication of the government’s response to its Heat and Buildings Strategy consultation, which set out proposals to end the installation of fossil fuel heating systems in off-gas grid homes from 2026 and businesses from 2024.

The survey of 1,500 UK homes on oil heating, conducted by the Future Ready Fuel campaign on behalf of trade associations OFTEC and UKIFDA, also found over 96% of rural homes want to decide which green heating system they install, rather than the government.

In the midst of the cost-of-living crisis, 88% also said the government’s current low carbon heating solution are too expensive for them.

Fairness and choice

In response to the findings, CEO of trade association UKIFDA Ken Cronin said: “It’s clear rural homes and businesses want to play their part in going green and we fully support this ambition. However, with the cost-of-living crisis putting huge pressure on household finances, the government needs to provide more realistic and affordable options.

“Two major themes from this survey are fairness and choice and it is important rural communities have solutions which are affordable with minimal disruptions. Transitioning to low carbon heating must not be made at the expense of poor outcomes for consumers.” 

As part of its Heat and Buildings strategy, the government wants homes and businesses not connected to the gas grid to transition to heat pumps. However, the survey found that whilst 95% are keen to go green and reduce their carbon emissions, support for heat pumps was less than 8%.

In contrast, over 88% of respondents on oil heating said they want the option of keeping their boiler but switching to a renewable liquid fuel such as Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO), which reduces emissions by nearly 90% following a simple low-cost conversion. 

A realistic solution

Paul Rose, CEO of trade association OFTEC, added: “Heat pumps have an important role to play and OFTEC registered technicians are already out in the field helping to install the technology. However, not every property is suitable. This is often the case for those on oil heating, which tend to be older buildings with poor insulation and low energy efficiency.

“That’s why it’s important they have an alternative solution such as HVO. It’s quick and easy to make the switch and we’ve already converted nearly 150 oil properties to the fuel as part of a demonstration project. With government support, we would be able to rollout HVO more widely and deliver a realistic green solution for harder to treat properties.”

Councillor concerns

In addition to the homeowner poll a new YouGov poll reveals rural councillors’ are also extremely concerned over the lack of choice for their constituents.

The poll, conducted on behalf of heating industry trade bodies OFTEC and UKIFDA, has found that 83% of rural councillors want their constituents to have a real choice about how they decarbonise their home heating, and 73% say their constituents are concerned about the financial impact of Net Zero.

The polling comes ahead of a crucial set of local elections next month, with almost two thirds of the contested seats in rural district councils, representing the majority of off grid households.

The polling results are particularly stark for the Conservative Party. The poll found that 89% of Conservative councillors want their constituents to have a real choice and 79% say their constituents are concerned about the financial impact that net zero will have on rural households.

The regional break down found that 100% of Conservative councillors in key electoral battlegrounds, including the South West, North East and Yorkshire and Humber agreed that rural communities should be given the choice to decarbonise in a way that suits them.

A fairer solution

Chief executive of OFTEC, Paul Rose, said: “Councillors of all parties, from Cornwall to Cumberland, are in overwhelming agreement: customers must be given the choice to pick how they want to decarbonise their heating.

“The Government must recognise that a heat pump-first approach removes choice and adds cost and will particularly leave rural communities disadvantaged. Decarbonisation can be achieved more quickly, and in a fairer and more equitable manner, simply by giving consumers the power to choose.”