National poll reveals Net Zero concerns ahead of May local elections

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New polling by YouGov on behalf of heating industry trade bodies OFTEC and UKIFDA has found that 83% of rural councillors want their constituents to have a real choice about how they decarbonise their home heating, and 73% say their constituents are concerned about the financial impact of Net Zero.

The findings also show that councillors across different regions are concerned about the prospect of the Government not giving people a choice about the best way to decarbonise their home heating. All councillors polled in Yorkshire and Humber, irrespective of party, said that rural households must be given a choice; 95% in the North East and 92% in the South West agreed.

The 1.7 million off gas grid UK households, many of them in rural communities, who rely on heating oil to heat their homes, are facing little choice in their route to decarbonising their home heating and at much higher costs. Under current government proposals, these households will be subject to a ban, in less than three years, on new and replacement boilers, with their only current option being to install a heat pump.

The polling results are particularly stark for the Conservative Party. The poll found that 89% of Conservative councillors want their constituents to have a real choice and 79% say their constituents are concerned about the financial impact that Net Zero will have on rural households. The regional break down found that 100% of Conservative councillors in key electoral battlegrounds, including the South West, North East and Yorkshire and Humber agreed that rural communities should be given the choice to decarbonise in a way that suits them.

The polling comes ahead of a crucial set of local elections for the parties next month, with almost two thirds of the contested seats in rural district councils, representing the majority of off grid households.

The nature of these homes – their existing energy efficiency, location, age and construction – mean that these households will face substantial additional costs and disruption to switch to a heat pump, estimated at an average of £22,000 per home.

OFTEC and UKIFDA, which represent businesses delivering vital heating services to households and businesses in primarily rural areas, are calling on the Government to rethink its approach.

Over the course of the last 18 months the two organisations have successfully demonstrated the use of a renewable liquid fuel called hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) in 150 properties across the UK. HVO is derived from waste cooking oil and is a direct replacement for heating oil.

The demonstration projects have confirmed that an 88% reduction in carbon emissions can be achieved with an upfront investment of £500 per household. The conversion to HVO can be delivered through minimal changes to existing appliances during a normal hour-long annual service. This proves that there are alternative and practical ways forward for millions of people living in off-gas grid properties to transition to renewable liquid fuels and reduce their emissions in a more affordable way.

"Councillors of all parties, from Cornwall to Cumberland, are in overwhelming agreement: customers must be given the choice to pick how they want to decarbonise their heating. The Government must recognise, that a heat pump-first approach removes choice, adds cost and will particularly leave rural communities disadvantaged. Decarbonisation can be achieved more quickly, and in a fairer and more equitable manner, simply by giving consumers the power to choose."

“Up and down the country, millions of people living in rural off grid homes are facing the prospect of being forced to install a heating system which they may not want, be able to afford, or even be physically able to install. Our demonstration projects prove there is space in our country’s low-carbon future for a wide variety of solutions, from heat pumps to renewable liquid fuels. Councillors across the country, regardless of party affiliation, recognise that there are workable alternatives and people should be given the choice.”

The findings of the poll are in line with a recent survey of 1,500 households that use oil heating across the UK, which found that 96% of respondents want to decide which green heating system they install, rather than have the decision made for them by the Government.  It also found that 89% would prefer to convert their existing boiler to run on renewable liquid fuels, such as Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO). The cost of boiler conversion to run on renewable liquid fuels adds up to just £500 per home and delivers an 88% reduction in emissions.

In order to make renewable liquid fuels a viable alternative to fossil fuels such as kerosene, and help rural communities decarbonise quickly and affordably, OFTEC and UKIFDA are calling for the Government to incentivise take up of renewable liquid fuels through amendments to the Energy Bill as it completes its legislative stages in Parliament in the months ahead.

Other key findings in the national poll include:

  • Conservative councillors across all the regions have high levels of concern about the financial impact of Net Zero, with Conservatives in the East of England and Yorkshire and Humber showing the highest concern (89% say they are concerned).

  • 69% of Conservative councillors have concerns about the Government’s current policy to ban the installation of replacement heating oil boilers in off gas grid properties from 2026.

  • 60% of Labour councillors are concerned about the financial impact of net zero on their constituents.

  • 67% of Labour and 71% of Liberal Democrats think their constituents are concerned about the financial impact.
  • 76% of Labour and 83% of Liberal Democrat councillors agree the Government should give rural communities real choice about which low carbon technology they use to heat their homes.

Polling conducted by YouGov on behalf of heating industry trade bodies OFTEC and UKIFDA

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