Introducing OFTEC’s vision for the future of off-grid domestic heating…

Niall Fay and Paul Rose
Photo by ©Andrew Higgins 2017

As reported in the last issue of Oil Installer, OFTEC’s vision document is designed to influence government policy at a time when the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is still considering the responses to its domestic heating consultation, which finished in January.

OFTEC’s proposals to improve energy efficiency and carbon reduction for off-grid homes in England and Wales were officially presented at the trade association’s annual conference and AGM, in June, where new chairman, Niall Fay of Grant Engineering, was also welcomed to the post.

Commenting on OFTEC’s vision, Paul Rose said: “Improving energy efficiency and carbon reduction for   off-grid homes is an issue which must be urgently addressed.

“OFTEC has taken the lead and developed what we believe is a practical, affordable and effective solution which addresses the Department of Business, Energy and Industry’s four key requirements: to keep energy bills low; cost effectively reduce carbon emissions; ensure a secure, resilient energy supply; and avoid unreasonable upfront costs for consumers in the process.

“We now need to share this vision and its clear benefits with government and other stakeholders, and ask for the support we need to progress our plans to the next stage. Time is ticking and we can’t afford to leave anything to chance. All cost effective, pragmatic measures must now be considered to accelerate the UK’s progress towards its carbon reduction targets.”

As most Oil Installer readers will know, there are two strands to the current domestic heat policy – ECO for people on very low incomes, and the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) for homeowners who install renewable heating. The RHI was designed to help eradicate oil, as this was seen as the first step towards the total decarbonisation of our heating. But, after three years it is clear that the RHI will never achieve its intended purpose and is actually a very expensive and poorly thought-out policy.

Expensive and inconvenient for the consumer

There are several reasons for this. The first is that the renewable heating it supports is expensive, and often difficult to fit into existing homes. For example, heat pumps – which are the government’s preferred heat option – cost between three to five times as much as a typical replacement boiler. Retrofitting them into older homes usually requires other upgrades such as oversized radiators and/or improvements to the thermal efficiency of the building itself – all adding cost and inconvenience to the consumer.

Subsidising the replacement of the UK’s 1.5 million oil boilers in this way would cost the public billions of pounds, and that’s without the upgrades to the national grid that would be needed.

Another important factor, as any installer knows, is that most replacement boilers are distress purchases and need to be installed quickly, giving consumers little time to consider alternative options such as renewable technologies. A drop-in replacement is invariably the cheapest and most practical solution. Add in the low running cost of oil and gas boilers and it isn’t hard to see why heat pumps are not an attractive retrofit proposition in most cases.

OFTEC believes that heat pumps are best suited to new homes and that tax payers should not be asked to fund them in the retrofit market, where they are probably only viable with the help of large subsidies.      

Instead, OFTEC has proposed that there should be a scrappage scheme to replace older boilers with new condensing models. OFTEC’s independently verified calculations show that offering a modest incentive of just £400 per appliance would be five times more effective at reducing carbon emissions than the existing RHI scheme. We also know that consumers would support this simple, affordable solution.

As well as tackling carbon reduction and energy efficiency, this approach would pave the way for phase two of OFTEC’s proposal – the roll out of a renewable bio-liquid fuel to replace the fossil fuels we currently use.

The idea of ‘greening the fuel’ rather than replacing the appliance is rapidly gaining support across the heating industry, and for good reason – it offers a much more practical and affordable option for both government and consumers alike, and the development of low carbon solutions for gas and liquid fuels is already underway.

Want to find out more? To receive a copy of the Vision document, email: vision@oftec.org. If you would like a hard copy, please include your full address details.

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