The Government expects heat pumps to play a lead role in the transition and they are certainly important. But a strategy of picking one technology winner could result in slower progress. Why? Because one size does not fit all when it comes to heating buildings and heat pumps are expensive to retrofit. There’s a risk many households will try to hold on to their existing system for as long as possible.
OFTEC is among an increasing number of influential voices suggesting to government that it’s better to support all viable options. This gives people greater choice and will make the pathway to net zero cheaper and easier – which means it’s more likely the 2050 goal will be achieved.
Liquid fuels such as HVO are a key technology but are not currently supported by the Government for heating, although the Heat and Buildings Strategy makes it clear it has not been ruled out. OFTEC, together with colleagues from the fuel distribution trade association UKIFDA, has made a concerted effort to convince the Government it needs to change its thinking. Not all this work has been reported in Oil Installer, so here’s a roundup of all the key developments.
HVO field demonstration project
Over the last three heating seasons 135 homes and non-domestic buildings have been successfully converted to run on HVO. The project has been costly – the HVO is supplied to the participants free of charge – but hugely valuable.
Key benefits: We have been able to show conclusively that HVO works in existing appliances and that the conversion is easy and cheap to do. We’ve also generated a huge amount of media coverage and shown MPs and policy makers that it’s a solution they should support.
Comparing conversion cost – HVO vs heat pumps
17 homes in the Cornish village of Kehelland that participated in the HVO demonstration project were used to model decarbonisation costs in detail over a 15-year period. All the Kehelland homes – which were chosen at random – needed additional insulation work along with the heat pump, bringing the average installation cost up to over £23,000 – well beyond the means of most households. HVO worked out cheaper, even when compared over 15 years, providing it was backed by an incentive scheme – see article on page 6.
Key benefits: The report shows that compared to installing an air source heat pump, conversion to HVO could be cheaper for many off-grid households and makes a convincing case for why it needs support. In April the report was presented to MPs at an event in Parliament.
HVO conversion handbook
The HVO demonstration project provided the opportunity to develop a detailed handbook for technicians to use when converting systems to HVO.
Key benefit: We now have a key resource ready for when HVO is given the green light.
Portland fuel availability report
A key government concern is whether there’s enough HVO available. UKIFDA commissioned Portland Analytics to carry out a detailed study on the availability of the sustainable feedstocks needed for HVO.
Key benefit: The report shows conclusively that there is sufficient feedstock and production capacity available to meet all the anticipated requirements until at least 2030. The Government has been given the report as part of the evidence we provided to inform the forthcoming biomass strategy.
Publicly Available Specification (PAS) for HVO
The sustainability of renewable liquid fuels is a key government concern. It must be manufactured using recycled materials from verifiable waste feedstocks. OFTEC has developed a PAS to ensure that only fuels that meet the correct sustainability specification are used for heating.
Key benefit: The PAS demonstrates to government that the heating industry takes its environmental responsibilities seriously and has a solution.
Air quality is an important issue. OFTEC commissioned research from a leading test house that proved that the NOx emissions from HVO are similar to kerosene.
Key benefit: The research shows that HVO has much lower NOx emissions compared to the Government’s current preferred alternative to heat pumps – solid biomass – another good reason to support it.
Research by the Future Ready Fuel campaign has shown that there is overwhelming consumer support for renewable liquid fuels to be an option supported by the Government. Well over 90% who responded want the option to try HVO.
Key benefit: The views of voters really matter to politicians, so this kind of evidence is very powerful. It was a visit to the Kehelland site, where he met many local residents, that convinced Cornish MP, George Eustice to launch his 10 Minute Rule Bill in Parliament.
The Future Ready Fuel campaign
The campaign website has been visited by tens of thousands of oil heating users and many have signed up for the regular newsletters and sent letters to their MP.
Key benefit: It builds vital support. The Government’s plans to decarbonise off-gas grid heating are currently ‘under the radar’, so the Future Ready Fuel campaign helps to explain what’s happening and the role renewable liquid fuels can play.
Good lobbyists are expensive but can really make a difference. OFTEC is working with lobbying agencies in the UK and in Ireland.
Key benefit: Lobbying agencies play an important role in developing an effective campaign strategy and getting our message to the right people at the heart of government at the right time.
How you can help
If you haven’t already taken action, please do these two things NOW:
- Tell your customers about the Government’s decarbonisation plans and how they will be affected – contact email@example.com for free information leaflets if you need them.
- Tell your customers about HVO and that they can help ensure renewable liquid fuels are supported by writing to their MP – downloadable template letters, and the answers to most questions, can be found on the Future Ready Fuel website: futurereadyfuel.info
The future of liquid fuel heating hangs in the balance. Don’t think a ban will never happen.