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Tue, 7 July 2020

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Green homes for green places: the search for a solution that doesn’t cost the earth

Green homes for green places: the search for a solution that doesn’t cost the earth

If we want green homes in green places, bioLPG is not only the best value way to get us there – but also the fairest, says Calor Gas | Credit: Calor Gas

Calor Gas

4 min read Member content

To go further and help decarbonise more ‘hard to treat’ homes, it’s critical that bioLPG is recognised by the new Green Gas Support Scheme which the BEIS consultation proposes.

As we emerge from lockdown, one of the few things which won’t have changed is meeting Net Zero emissions by 2050.

Home heating contributes a significant 14% of all UK greenhouse gas emissions and for rural ‘hard to treat’ homes this decarbonisation problem is acute.

Often lived in by some of the most fuel poor, upgrading them requires very substantial spending on renovations and heating systems, if government’s favoured technology – a standalone heat pump is to have any benefit.

If we want green homes in green places, bioLPG is not only the best value way to get us there – but also the fairest.

YouGov polling of people living in off gas grid, rural homes, shows most of the easy energy efficiency upgrades have already taken place - yet only 3% of these households are at EPC C or above.

Only the harder, more expensive and disruptive upgrades remain. For example, over 70% of households have already fitted ‘top-up’ loft insulation, but fewer than 20% have installed external wall insulation.

So how do we meet this challenge? In its proposed Future support for low carbon heat’ , BEIS include biomass boilers as a solution - quoting £18k to install (minus a proposed £4k grant).

Yet, the same YouGov polling shows that only 4% of rural homeowners would spend over £5k on a new low carbon heating system.

Add to this the relatively large size of biomass boilers, the storage space needed for the woodchip fuel, and the air pollution they cause and this is hardly a recipe for success.

Indeed, air pollution from biomass is such an issue that the proposals specifically rule it out for urban areas.

So what’s the alternative? ‘BioLPG’ – or biopropane – is already being used here in the UK and elsewhere as a direct alternative for LPG boilers, meaning no disruption for consumers.

Unlike biomass, bioLPG produces very low levels of NOx, SOx and particulates.

It also saves carbon immediately; no need to wait for expensive and disruptive energy efficiency improvements or fitting larger radiators.

Whilst a boiler using bioLPG is typically more expensive to run than a heat pump, the £2k installation costs compared to the £18k for a biomass boiler (or £10k for a heat pump), mean the total cost of bioLPG heating is actually lower.

BioLPG can also be combined with a smaller – therefore cheaper - heat pump as part of a hybrid system.

Most of today’s bioLPG, which Calor has been supplying since 2018, comes as a by-product from biodiesel production.

The bioLPG boiler provides back up in a cold snap if the heat pump alone won’t keep you warm; you don’t need to find space for a hot water tank; and in the future you could help balance the electricity network by using your bioLPG boiler (rather than heat pump) when electricity demand is high - and you’d probably get paid for doing so.

This could be very useful for rural electricity networks, especially as we see more electric vehicle charging at home.

So where do we source this fuel from?

Most of today’s bioLPG, which Calor has been supplying since 2018, comes as a by-product from biodiesel production.

But in the future more will come from the production of sustainable aviation fuels – which are already being used to decarbonise long-haul flight.

There are also numerous other potential sources of bioLPG and we are actively funding multiple research projects with UK universities so we can bring costs down for consumers.

Indeed, we have invested millions of pounds in bringing bioLPG to market without any subsidy, just to prove we can do it.

Now, we need government’s support.

To go further and help decarbonise more ‘hard to treat’ homes, it’s critical that bioLPG is recognised by the new Green Gas Support Scheme which the BEIS consultation proposes.

Currently this only applies to green gas for injection to the gas grid - which simply isn’t fair on rural communities who can’t access the gas network.

If we want green homes in green places, bioLPG is not only the best value way to get us there – but also the fairest.

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