The government has committed to exploring how the 1.7 million oil heated homes in the UK could switch to a renewable liquid fuel after passing an amendment to its Energy Bill.
The move follows growing pressure from rural MPs who raised concerns over the fairness of the government’s existing proposals for decarbonising heating in off-gas grid homes, which would mean households could face high costs if they were forced to switch to a heat pump – the government’s preferred option.
Former Environment Secretary George Eustice MP initially put forward an amendment to the Energy Bill to ensure oil households instead have the choice of converting their boilers to run on a renewable liquid fuel made from used cooking oil.
In response, the government tabled its own amendment which passed through the House of Commons. It commits to delivering a consultation on the use of renewable liquid fuels within 12 months of the Bill receiving Royal Ascent.
In its Heat and Buildings Strategy published two years ago, the government proposed banning the installation of new fossil fuel boilers in the home from 2026. In most cases, these properties would be expected to install a heat pump.
However, government data reveals many rural homes could face costs of over £25,000 to switch to the technology due to the need for new radiators, additional insulation and other measures for the heat pump to work effectively. The consultation findings have yet to be published but it is likely the new Energy Bill amendment will impact the response.
Some 150 oil heated properties across the UK have already been converted to run on a renewable liquid fuel called Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) as part of a demonstration project organised by trade associations OFTEC and UKIFDA alongside industry partners.
The sustainably sourced fuel reduces emissions by 88% and works in an existing oil boiler following a minor modification, expected to cost less than £500. Homes, schools, villages halls and pubs took part in the successful project which has been running for over two years.
It is hoped that the amendment to the government’s Energy Bill will be a stepping stone towards a wider rollout of HVO to deliver greener heating in rural properties in support of the UK’s net zero ambitions. The consultation will explore putting in place a system that will enable the fuel to be used for heating at a more affordable cost.
Paul Rose, CEO of OFTEC, and Ken Cronin, CEO of UKIFDA, commented: “Rural communities deserve to have a fair choice over how they switch their homes to low carbon heating which reflect what they can afford and their level of acceptable disruption.
“For those on oil heating, renewable liquid fuels provide a straight forward solution whilst delivering on the UK’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions. We are pleased that the amendment to the Energy Bill put forward by the government has been accepted. It follows support from more than 30 MPs from across the political divide who backed George Eustice’s MP original amendments.
“We will work with the government to deliver the consultation on renewable liquid fuels to meet the wishes many MPs expressed on behalf of their rural constituents. This process should be delivered quickly to overcome the uncertainty many oil homes currently face.”