Government backed energy efficiency schemes mustn't unfairly disadvantage off-gas grid rural communities

Posted On: 
25th January 2018

Calor Gas outlines its vision for how the government can achieve its decarbonisation plans in the countryside and address the challenge of rural fuel poverty.

Credit: 
Calor Gas

Last week the Committee on Climate Change published its full response to the Clean Growth Strategy - the government’s plan to achieve its challenging Greenhouse Gas Emission (GHG) targets as set out in the fourth (2023-27) and fifth (2027-32) carbon budgets and beyond. 

Presenting at Rural England’s Rural Vulnerability Day in Parliament today, Paul Blacklock, Calor’s head of strategy and corporate affairs, outlined the off-gas grid energy supplier’s vision for how the government can achieve its decarbonisation plans in the countryside and address the concomitant challenge of rural fuel poverty. 

The Committee on Climate Change has pressed the government to firm up policies, among others, on how it intends to improve the energy efficiency of new buildings and phase out the use of the most polluting fossil fuels, such as heating oil and coal, used off the gas grid.

In order to achieve the levels of emission reductions from the UK’s homes and buildings, the government is planning to transform how we heat our homes and how we build them. The majority of home owners currently heat their homes with gas, typically through condensing boilers connected to the gas grid. Those in rural communities not connected to the gas grid (approximately 2 million homes) will either use heating oil, coal, electricity or LPG to do the same. In order to meet its targets, the process of transitioning homes to new low carbon heating systems will need to start by the early 2020s. This will be the subject of an anticipated consultation on the UK’s new heat strategy and a review of existing building standards to improve current levels of energy efficiency.

Calor, the UK’s first supplier of bioLPG, recognises that the transition away from fossil fuels has begun. We support the government’s intention to phase out the use of heating oil and coal off the gas grid.  We believe that any future heat strategy should have green gas at its heart, which is why we are devoting significant resources to innovation and diversification, bringing new high efficiency heating applications and low carbon and renewable fuels to the market. 
At the same time, it is vital that the policies we pursue are affordable and help to reduce levels of rural fuel poverty. Historically, rural homes have suffered a greater propensity of fuel poverty as they often comprise a collection of relatively isolated buildings, located over a wide geographical area and which tend to be older, stone-built, with solid floors and walls.

It isn’t fair on rural home owners that successive government-backed energy efficiency schemes such as the Energy Company Obligation have almost completely bypassed the countryside – statistics from Ofgem show that only 2% of measures delivered by ECO have benefited rural homes, despite these homes paying into the scheme via their electricity bills. 

In order to achieve affordable decarbonisation in the countryside the government must reform how current policies are developed. For instance, we don’t currently measure energy efficiency properly in the countryside via Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs). This is because the principal rating on an EPC is based on running costs, not energy efficiency and as such could encourage households to switch to more polluting fuels.

Addressing delegates, Paul Blacklock said: “The government’s Clean Growth Strategy can be delivered in the countryside if it uses some fresh thinking and takes rural considerations into account. Off grid gas, in the form of LPG, can make a major contribution to achieving our carbon targets with minimal need for infrastructure investment by using drop-in solutions such as bioLPG. However, to ensure fairness, future government policies linked to the Clean Growth Strategy need to ensure that energy efficiency schemes do not continue to unfairly disadvantage off-gas grid communities and allow rural homeowners to decarbonise affordably”.