Reducing UK emissions remains an emergency despite current crisis
. While some challenges need to be overcome, with the right policy support, a fully sustainable, fossil-free liquid fuel could be in use by 2035, says Paul Rose.
Now more than ever, UK decarbonisation strategy must be cost effective, practical and fit for purpose to ensure that industries, businesses and consumers can get fully behind measures and make them work.
Until recently, the biggest and most urgent challenge facing the world today was climate change.
This has now been superseded by the battle against COVID-19 – for now at least.
At this moment, none of us know what the full impact of the current situation will be. But the signs are that repercussions for world health and financial stability will be far reaching.
Another unknown is the knock-on effect on the UK’s decarbonisation agenda.
Fighting the current coronavirus fire will undoubtedly deplete government reserves, hit the finances of many consumers hard and so reduce carbon reduction momentum.
Despite the marked drop in air and water pollution seen across many cities as a result of the major changes we are facing, experts say this lull will be temporary and the climate emergency will still demand urgent and decisive action.
So, it’s essential that policy decisions made now take account of the economic realities that the UK – and the rest of the world - is likely to be operating in after COVID-19.
Now more than ever, UK decarbonisation strategy must be cost effective, practical and fit for purpose to ensure that industries, businesses and consumers can get fully behind measures and make them work
When it comes to decarbonising domestic heat, in particular for off-gas grid homes, current policy thinking is focused on electrification and use of heat pumps as the best options.
Whilst these technologies work well in some settings, the reality is they will not in many rural homes without additional major, costly energy efficiency improvements as these properties are generally older and larger than average, with poor insulation levels.
Asking rural households to spend thousands of pounds on expensive-to-install heat pumps (typically £6,000 to £18,000¹), is likely to be unrealistic and highly unpopular, especially when major costly and disruptive energy efficiency improvements would also need to be made to many of these properties for heat pumps to work effectively. This is particularly concerning given that many rural consumers face additional struggles including lower disposable incomes and significantly deeper levels of fuel poverty.
Department for Work and Pensions data reveals that almost 70% of mid to low income households in the UK have less than £1,500 in savings, while over 55% of these households have no savings at all². Many are also in debt so, it’s difficult to see how most are going to be able to fund green heating systems without huge government subsidies, especially when any cash reserves people may have had will be run down further to keep afloat during this difficult time.
And where would these subsidies come from? Government has, quite rightly, made billions available to support businesses and households through the COVID-19 crisis. But will this mean there is less funding left in the UK’s decarbonisation pot? And if so, what are the implications for policy going forward?
With key decisions looming, it’s vital that government balances the urge to take action with a pragmatic assessment of the new post-COVID 19 reality.
Poor choices at this stage could lead to further stalling of the decarbonisation process and the unfair discrimination of many rural households who are already struggling to affordably heat their energy inefficient homes.
Now, more than ever, consumers need cost effective, consumer friendly solutions and for off-grid households, including the 1.53 million who currently rely on oil heating, extensive independent research shows the answer could lie in liquid biofuels. While some challenges need to be overcome, with the right policy support, a fully sustainable, fossil-free liquid fuel could be in use by 2035.
Changing the fuel instead of the appliance and all that entails, is the simplest, lowest cost approach. This is an option which must be taken seriously and included in BEIS’ off-grid heat consultation expected later this year.
Find out more about how sustainable low carbon liquid fuels can support to UK’s transition to net zero visit and how to support this drive here. Alternatively, contact Paul Rose at [email protected] or call directly on 01473 618561.
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