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A just energy transition for rural areas: no ‘one size fits all’ approach

(Credit: iStock)

Sophia Haywood, Head of Advocacy and Communications

Sophia Haywood, Head of Advocacy and Communications | Dimeta

3 min read Partner content

Over 40 per cent of constituencies in the UK are rural and 88 per cent of rural dwellers feel that the government should take more account of their views1

Ahead of the upcoming elections, the rural vote is set to be a key battleground, but it should not just be sought to be ‘won’, it should be truly understood. A just energy transition for rural areas should be at the forefront of this.  

Rural areas across the UK are facing significant challenges with accessing affordable housing, living costs and lower incomes compared to urban areas. Recent Defra statistics2 show the average house price was £424,000, over £124,000 higher than in urban areas outside of London. Compounding this, the rural fuel poverty gap is double the national average.3 It is critical to consider this when addressing the transition to net-zero. 

While heat pumps will have a critical role to play and will grow to be a major heating technology in the UK, a ‘one size fits all’ electrification approach will not work for rural areas. Research shows a mixed technology approach to decarbonising heating systems in the over 1.5 million off-grid rural homes in the UK would save over £7bn compared with a ‘one size fits all’ electrification approach.  

Research shows that a typical pre-1918 detached family home would face levelised costs of 40 per cent higher, equating to £22,600, if forced to switch to a heat pump rather than renewable liquid gases.4 This is unaffordable and unattainable for most, especially as 95 per cent of rural dwellers cited upfront costs of new heating technologies as a key concern.

One of the solutions, as part of a mixed technology approach, is renewable liquid gases, such as renewable and recycled carbon dimethyl ether (DME). It is produced from sustainable feedstocks such as waste and is chemically similar to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). It can reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions by up to 85 per cent, whilst improving air quality compared to oil or solid fuels. It can even reach negative emissions with carbon capture. It can be used as a blend in existing infrastructure or on its own as a 100 per cent renewable solution, in new dedicated appliances being developed today. 

Dimeta is bringing renewable & recycled carbon DME to the UK, by developing a series of production facilities across the UK and Europe. Planned DME production facilities by Dimeta in the UK would de-fossilize the equivalent of over 25 per cent of the UK LPG domestic heating market.  

Looking to the future, if our next government truly wants to create affordable, sustainable solutions for generations to come, then we must embrace multiple energy solutions in off-grid areas and establish the appropriate frameworks today, in order to safeguard our tomorrow. 


REFERENCES

1 Liquid Gas UK, Off-gas grid survey (2021) 
2 DEFRA, Statistical Digest of Rural England (2023) 
3 Rural Services Network, Winning the rural vote (February 2024) 
4 Ecuity Consulting & Liquid Gas UK, A Practical Approach: Analysis of Off-Grid Heat Decarbonisation Pathways (2019), p25 
5 Liquid Gas UK, Off-gas grid survey (2021) 

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