Government’s green heating plans out of touch with ‘ordinary’ people
Rural households in particular are already more likely to be in fuel poverty, says Paul Rose | Credit: OFTEC
If the Government’s current green heating plans go ahead, it’s likely that progress on heat decarbonisation will continue to stall, especially for off gas grid homes.
Let’s start with a question. What does heat decarbonisation policy aim to achieve?
The answer is of course to cut emissions from heat but, if done well, it can also support other goals, such as addressing fuel poverty and transforming quality of life.
Yet if government’s current green heating plans go ahead, it’s likely that progress on heat decarbonisation will continue to stall, especially for off gas grid homes.
In support of the UK’s Clean Growth Strategy, government has just finished consulting on plans to push electric heat pumps as the solution to decarbonising heat from most rural homes.
Concerningly, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has also, once again, advised government to take this approach.
In the right setting, heat pumps can offer a good low carbon heating option. However, they are also very expensive to install, costing on average over £10,000.
Even with the help of £4,000 ‘Clean Heat Grants’, which are set to be introduced from 2022, homeowners will still need to find at least £6,000 from their own pockets to fund them. How many will realistically be able to afford this? The answer is probably very few.
Rural households in particular are already more likely to be in fuel poverty, face the largest fuel poverty gap and fall into the low to middle income bracket, with little or no savings to draw on.
Many also live in some of the least energy efficient properties in Europe so would need to fund additional, expensive home energy efficiency improvements to make their properties suitable for heat pumps – potentially adding thousands of pounds to the cost.
The price of green heating solutions must be significantly reduced
Many would no doubt welcome help to make their homes more energy efficient and the Green Homes Grant scheme, announced last week by the Chancellor, could help.
But how much of the £2bn funding will find its way to rural homes?
The answer, if previous insulation schemes are anything to go by, is likely to be very little.
The chances are that already-stretched rural households will continue to live in the cold, poorly insulated homes they struggle to affordably heat.
Fuel poverty and excess winter death levels will remain unacceptably high and efforts to decarbonise their homes will continue to falter.
And the situation could get even worse.
Instead of looking at how to address these challenges, the CCC has now proposed fossil fuel taxes.
This will only increase the financial burden on most rural families who at least currently benefit from the low price of heating oil compared to other off-grid fuels.
The sad fact is that, since the introduction of the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) in 2014, the government’s support for low carbon heating has been highly regressive and there is every sign that this will continue.
The divide between the relatively small number of high earners who can afford to take action, and those who cannot, will get wider.
When you consider the reality of the situation, it’s hard not to feel that government and the CCC have lost touch with the lives of ‘ordinary’ people and the issues they face.
Costs must fall
Heat pumps have already received over six years of government subsidy through the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), yet the number installed in off grid homes remains embarrassingly low.
Less than 1% of oil heated households have made the switch, a similar proportion of LPG households and even fewer of those on electric heating.
For change to occur, the price of green heating solutions must be significantly reduced and incentivising just a narrow range of technologies is unlikely to make this happen.
It can be achieved though by creating a more competitive, inclusive market that encourages innovation and offers a broader range of choice for consumers. We think this goal should be the number one heat policy priority for the government.
Renewable liquid fuels are one of the alternative solutions missing from today’s market.
This simple, cost effective ‘drop-in’ replacement for heating oil could virtually remove carbon emissions from 1.5 million UK homes with relatively little capital cost or disruption for the homeowner.Many European countries are already trialling this solution with very encouraging results.
Emissions from heat must be cut – but this will only happen when the right policy support is in place. There is unfortunately no place for idealistic thinking, particularly in today’s economic climate. Cost remains a crucial factor for consumers and to be successful, decarbonisation policy must reflect this.
Find out more about how liquid fuels can contribute to UK’s net zero and how to support this drive here.
Alternatively, contact Paul Rose at [email protected] or call directly on 01473 618561.
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