Oil heating body says lower carbon agenda focus threatens to overlook cost advantage of oil to those living in fuel poverty
The chief executive of oil heating body OFTEC has launched a stinging attack on the government’s current inaction over fuel poverty and called for rural homeowners to be allowed to keep using oil as the cheapest heating option, even though it produces higher carbon emissions than other options.
Paul Rose said that the fact that the number of English households living in fuel poverty has gone up eight per cent in the last three years was evidence that current policies are not working.
He said: ”The problem is not new and one which government, charities, consumer groups and media have been highlighting for many years. Yet still the issue is getting worse, not better. It’s no coincidence that fuel poverty rates are higher in rural areas. Off-grid properties tend to be older and poorly insulated, so are far more difficult – and expensive - to effectively heat (as well as far harder to treat in terms of carbon reduction).”
He said that more effective and immediate action is urgently needed to tackle the growing crisis: ”Policy to address fuel poverty does exist and the focus of the Energy Company Obligation in its most recent form, ECO3, has shifted towards insulation. The move makes sense but insulating older buildings is expensive and the slender ECO budget will only be able to support a small number of homes.
“Yet pointing a finger at failing government policy is not a sufficient get out clause. We in the heating industry, along with energy suppliers, have a very real part to play in helping government identify and implement the most practical, cost effective measures to put an end to the fuel poverty crisis.”
He added: “Addressing this issue whilst keeping a mindful eye on the carbon reduction agenda is a very tough nut to crack. However, it’s clear that addressing the social challenges of fuel poverty will also help to reduce emissions and this approach is surely a better use of public funds than rewarding the wealthy for installing renewable heating systems through schemes such as the Renewable Heat Incentive.”
Mr Rose noted that OFTEC will continue to support the government’s decarbonisation agenda, working closely with BEIS on low carbon liquid biofuel options but he said this cannot be allowed to overshadow ’an arguably more urgent agenda which is also putting considerable strain on an already dangerously overstretched NHS.’
He stressed: ”While heating oil is high carbon, it also continues to be the cheapest fuel available to off-grid homes. Surely fuel poor households over any other should be allowed to continue to access this option – not forever but at least until a suitable, affordable and practical low carbon solution is found. We cannot carry on letting more and more vulnerable people die because they live in cold homes. We all have a responsibility to work together to end this crisis.”