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OFTEC seeks clear Clean Growth Strategy targets for oil heating

BEIS is warned by trade bodies that a lack of information on potential role for alternative fuels in government environment strategies is hindering innovation in the industry

The Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has been asked to clarify the role of oil heating in its Clean Growth Strategy by trade association OFTEC and the Federation of Petroleum Suppliers (FPS).

A joint statement from the two bodies has been published over fears of what they claim is a lack of information and formal targets around carbon reduction that are required to be met under its long-term environmental plans.

OFTEC has previously expressed concern over the decision to exclude oil boilers from the government’s proposals to reform the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme, a move it claims could compound fuel poverty in rural homes.

Writing to MP Claire Perry, the minister of state for climate and energy, both groups are calling for “clear and equitable objectives” that the industry can develop products in line with.

A lack of information and detail is said by both groups to have hindered industry progress to bring alternative lower carbon fuels to market in line with commitments to realise cleaner means of heating over the next three decades.

Both OFTEC and the FPS said that they had worked closely with government to understand how it may best support off-grid heating as an industry in a way that meets the Clean Growth Strategy’s core aims.

A statement from the organisations said, “The sessions have provided a valuable forum for discussion but have also raised important questions over how much carbon reduction is required of industry and by when.”

OFTEC chief executive Paul Rose argued that the oil heating industry was making progress in efforts to find alternative solutions that can lower the carbon foot print of off-grid heating.

Mr Rose pointed to successful testing of possible biofuel blends and wider studies into the sustainability of other alternatives as an example of work being undertaken.

He said, “But before we can move any further forward, we need the goalposts to be clearly defined. We are currently missing vital information on timeframes and the exact levels of carbon reduction required by government.”

“This is limiting our ability to assess the potential of various options and could delay progress if not quickly resolved.”

OFTEC and FPS have argued that government has portrayed oil and coal as exclusively high carbon fossil fuels that would appear to preclude their ongoing use under its environmental strategy.

The joint letter said this in turn would serve to limit opportunities to realise less carbon intensive heating for different types of properties.

FPS chief executive Guy Pulham said that oil heating was only slighter higher in terms of emissions per kWh when compared to LPG. He said that oil produces 0.298kg of CO2 compared to emissions of 0.241kg and natural gas 0.216kg associated with LPG and natural gas respectively.

Mr Pulham added, “Oil heating contributes less than two per cent of UK emissions so it seems perverse to single out this relatively small sector when there is so much more that needs to be achieved across the wider carbon reduction agenda.

“There is also the potential for consumer confusion over what constitutes a low carbon fuel. This could result in the situation where one fossil fuel heating system is replaced by another which is obviously an undesirable outcome. The government talks about high carbon fuels but we believe they need to be clearer on what constitutes a high carbon fuel and do they want only carbon neutral or low carbon or zero carbon fuels used?”

Mr Pulham said that he hoped to see a timeline introduced to allow for carbon emissions to be reduced in a staged basis from oil heating that would support a more gradual switch to potential zero-carbon biofuel options.

He added, “In the short-term, consumers should be encouraged to replace old boilers with oil condensing boilers, improve insulation and fit smart metering controls, which will all improve current emissions.”

“OFTEC and FPS are keen to continue working closely with BEIS to deliver a workable, futureproof solution for the off-grid sector. The next step has to be an agreement on our shared objectives and once we fully understand the position, we can carry on moving forwards.”

A consultation has been recently launched by The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) that proposes curbing sales of house coal outright in order that it be replaced by cleaner alternatives.

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