Biomass Strategy acknowledges off-grid challenges and role for HVO

The Government’s Biomass Strategy delivers a greater acknowledgement of the unique challenges facing rural off-grid homeowners but a frustrating lack of detail.

Strategy delivers greater support for off grid but lack of detail.

Recognising renewable liquid fuels as a pathway to decarbonise domestic heating and meet net zero targets, the strategy has made disappointingly little progress in delivering detailed analysis of availability and demand.

Listening to concerns

Recent days have seen major debate around the proposed 2026 ‘boiler ban’ with proponents from both sides of the fuel divide highlighting the deadline as ‘unfair’. Prior to yesterday’s release, those living off-grid faced little choice in the event of a boiler breakdown after 2026, expected to replace their heating system with a heat pump costing on average around £13,000 to £15,000 – four times that of a boiler replacement.

With the oil boiler ban coming 9 years earlier than that for gas, the liquid fuel industry has long argued the unfairness of net zero measures suggesting they penalise rural communities, resulting in a risk of homeowners being left with no affordable heating solution.

The Future Ready Fuels campaign, spearheaded by industry bodies UKIFDA and OFTEC, has argued for a technology-agnostic approach in a bid to deliver greater consumer choice as well as a swifter route to the decarbonisation of domestic heating.

Greater understanding, little progress

Yesterday’s announcement suggests Government has listened to these concerns, signalling a greater understanding of off-grid challenges as well as the important role for renewable liquid fuels in the future off-grid energy mix.

It is, however, disappointing to note the lack of progress in addressing the issues of availability of sustainable feedstocks, cost and conflict with demands of other sectors such as transport given that these fuels have long been viewed as fundamental to the decarbonisation of transport, aviation and heating.  

Whilst the Biomass Strategy 2023 appears to signal a welcome move away from the ‘one size fits all’ approach seen so far, the devil is in the detail and, despite the time already invested by the Government in this strategy, there is disappointingly little of that.