The Energy Security and Net Zero Committee visited the village of Kehelland in Cornwall to speak with residents about their experience of switching their home heating from kerosene to the renewable liquid fuel Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO).

Vicky Ford MP, Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP, Mark Pawsey MP and Barry Gardiner MP met with fuel distributor Mitchell and Webber, which has converted around 30 buildings in the village to HVO as part of a demonstration project, and OFTEC and UKIFDA who are urging the government to support the use of renewable liquid fuels for home heating.

The Select Committee was introduced to local residents who had converted to the fuel and visited the local pub, church and school which had also made the transition. The MPs heard first-hand the positive impact the fuel has had in the community and saw how the fuel was delivered by a road tanker which was also running on HVO.

The Kehelland community shares their experience of using HVO

David and Jane Biggs, who have been using HVO for over two years, spoke with the Committee about their experience. They highlighted how the cost of insulating the property to make it suitable for a heat pump could be upward of £70,000. “HVO has allowed us to transition to a cleaner and better fuel without the expense of substantial rebuilding costs of any of the alternatives”, they said

The MPs also visited Kehelland School, the only school in the UK using HVO. The school secretary, on behalf of the headteacher Ellie Watkins, commented that HVO had proved to be a very effective solution. The Committee also heard that the school didn’t have the budget to switch to other technologies or the time to manage the disruption this would bring.

Stephen and Nicki Thomas in the village have also been using HVO for over two years. The granite in their property, which was built in the 1800s, combined with no cavity wall insulation means a successful heat pump conversion would be very difficult to achieve.

They explained to the committee many properties were in a similar situation: “We have found that HVO has worked more efficiently with no major changes or upfront costs. For our granite property, any alternative heating solution would be financially prohibitive and too disruptive.”

The Committee also visited the Kehelland Methodist Church to meet Andrew Geake. He demonstrated the heating controls that allowed users of the community hall and chapel to have on demand heating for set amounts of time. Andrew explained this was important to have as the boiler has an output of 46 KW. This could not be done with other heating technologies or electrification.

“This renewable fuel can do the same job as heating oil whilst saving nearly 90% CO2 emissions. We have the ability with our boiler system to have on demand heating and to set the minimum time necessary with minimal pre heating”, Andrew said.

Pressure on the government to support renewable liquid fuels for home heating grows

Around 150 oil heated properties across the UK have switched to HVO as part of a demonstration project, supported by OFTEC and its technical team, UKIFDA, fuel distributors and technicians across the country. The project has been a huge success with the industry ready to rollout the fuel more widely.

The government’s current policy approach is for oil heated households to switch heat pumps. After pressure from consumers and backbench MPs, the initial deadline for the ban on the installation of fossil fuel heating systems from 2026 was pushed back to 2035.

According to the government’s online calculator, some off-grid properties could face costs of over £20,000 to make the switch and significant disruption. This is due to the energy efficiency upgrades required for the technology to work effectively which could include more insulation, new radiators, new piping and the introduction of a hot water tank.

OFTEC and UKIFDA are calling for the government to instead support the use of HVO as an alternative. The fuel reduces emissions by 88% and an oil boiler can be converted as part of a routine service which is estimated to cost around £500. Research shows there is more than enough sustainable sourced fuel to meet the needs of the domestic heating market.

John and Robert Weedon, from fuel distributors Mitchell and Webber who organised the visit, commented: “We were delighted to host the visit for the Select Committee so they could hear first hand from the residents about their positive experience switching to HVO. We very much hope that decision makers in government will listen to the messages from the residents, School and Church who represent not just Kehelland, but the majority of properties in rural off grid areas in the UK.

“The property owners have shown that as well as the huge costs to upgrade rural homes to make them suitable for other technologies, they remain unconvinced that technologies such as heat pumps will actually work in a retro situation. It’s clear they are unwilling to take a gamble when they have a perfectly usable and proven system that can decarbonise in a simpler, more cost effective way with a renewable fuel.”

Government commits to renewable liquid fuel consultation

The Government’s amendment to the Energy Bill committed to a consultation on a Renewable Liquid Heating Fuel Obligation (RLHFO). After nine months without further progress, OFTEC and UKIFA are urging the government to publish the consultation immediately to provide clarity for consumers.

Ken Cronin, UKIFDA CEO, said: “It was important to showcase how successful decarbonisation can be undertaken in rural areas when you combine a mix of customer choice, trust, cost effectiveness, least amount of disruption and significant buy-in from local communities. All of these were on show during the visit and it was great to see the Committee visiting individual homes, but also villagers stopping them in the street to support the renewable liquid fuel initiative.”

Paul Rose, OFTEC CEO, added: “The visit was a really useful session and it was great to see the MP’s spending time directly engaging with the public to understand their specific needs and concerns with regard to low carbon heating. I think it quickly became apparent that peoples’ needs are different and the range of buildings in the village shows that a number of technologies are required if the UK is to achieve net zero heating.”

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