Welsh heat strategy published

An over-reliance on heat pumps at the expense of a technology inclusive approach may not be successful, says OFTEC.

Welsh heat strategy published

Two years on from the publication of heat strategies for the UK and Scotland, the Welsh Government now has one of its own. As might be expected, it’s big on ambition, but OFTEC has concerns that the range of preferred technology options is too limited.

Serious challenges

The housing stock in Wales presents some serious challenges, and the new strategy acknowledges that Wales “has some of the oldest and poorest energy-performing buildings in Europe, and ‘hard-to-treat’ homes are widespread”. It’s concerning then that it states a strong technology preference for heat pumps but has little to say about the other low carbon heat technologies that are also likely to be needed – and nothing at all about renewable liquid fuels such as HVO.

It’s understandable that heat pumps are seen as a key technology, but the virtual exclusion of other options could be problematic and may even lead to slower progress. With incomes lower in rural areas, not to mention the effects of the cost-of-living crisis, off grid households need affordable options, rather than something that will be difficult, expensive, and disruptive to install in their homes. Supporting the use of liquid fuels for rural areas – where the housing stock is less well suited to heat pumps and where a workforce and fuel distribution network already exists – would have been a more sensible and pragmatic option.

This could also help reduce the cost of upgrading the electricity grid, which the Welsh Government accepts will require substantial investment costing many billions of pounds to make it heat pump and EV ready. Prioritising liquid fuels in more remote rural locations reduces the need to make grid upgrades where the costs will potentially be highest – saving taxpayers a considerable amount of money.

It’s become increasingly clear that the support of citizens for net zero policies is essential if they are to succeed, and this support can’t be taken for granted. Households and businesses are more likely to embrace low carbon heating if they are given a choice of affordable options and feel that the policies are fair. Unfortunately, few Welsh citizens will read the new Strategy or be aware of these plans – so their support is far from guaranteed. Worse still, the idea of technology inclusion appears not to be something the Welsh Government supports. Instead, it effectively wants to dictate what most households must choose – a one size fits all approach.

What OFTEC says

In our response to the consultation, OFTEC has highlighted the need to minimise cost and provide consumers with appropriate choices – including HVO for off gas grid areas. We also highlighted the important role that competent installers can play in supporting the transition, by ensuring customers receive good advice and high-quality outcomes.