We all know that politicians very rarely answer the questions they’ve been asked, and we’ve probably all shouted at the screen during Question Time when an MP’s reply sidesteps the question. However, sometimes by repeating the Government stance the politician underlines how little they know about the subject, and how a government’s course is set and not geared to even think about turning slightly off target to get a better outcome.
In the oil heating industry, we’ve all been delighted that MP George Eustice’s Renewable Liquid Heating Fuel Bill has been progressing slowly through Parliament for the last few months. The bill seeks to revise/reduce the duty on HVO, which is a concern we’ve been raising in the trade press for a while.
We were recently contacted by James Hibbert-Hingston, a heating engineer with 35 years-experience in the industry who installs heat-pumps, hybrid boilers and liquid fuel boilers, so has vast experience and working knowledge in those areas. James had contacted his local MP, calling on him to support George Eustice’s bill and HVO in general. James was very disappointed in his reply which was a masterclass in not answering the question and merely repeating the Government stance. This shows a lack understanding about the potential of HVO and demonstrates the Government’s focus on heat pumps. James asked us to look at his MP’s reply and give our thoughts as we’re a passionate oil boiler manufacturer that has been campaigning about the benefits of HVO and producing HVO ready boilers for a long time.
Decarbonising heating with immediate effect
When an MP states that: “Buildings are responsible for around 30% of our national emissions, and decarbonising homes and buildings not only helps the UK work towards net zero emissions, but also creates an unparalleled opportunity for job creation and innovation,” it is stating the obvious.
It also underlines how important it is to get up to speed on the decarbonising process. At the moment the UK has no ability to produce HVO fuel and relies on imports from Europe (where production plants are increasing in number each year) or from the US and Canada following the recent removal of the import tariffs. If the Government embraced and acknowledged the opportunity that HVO provides, then we could have our own HVO processing plants, creating skilled jobs in the UK and providing economic benefits to the country, while also making the UK’s heating supply more secure.
The MP continued: “One of the hardest things to decarbonise is heat and heat pumps are central to achieving net zero. The Government takes the role heat pumps can have in driving down carbon emissions very seriously and has set an ambitious target of 600,000 heat pump installations a year by 2028. A £60 million Heat Pump Ready programme will help to support reaching this target and provide funding for pioneering heat pump technologies.”
This is all well and good, but reducing the duty on HVO, as the Eustice bill is trying to achieve, would be a massive support to existing off-grid homes and help to decarbonise their heating with immediate effect. Also, providing grants to convert older boilers to run on HVO would cost less in grants and would mean those homes could keep their existing heating infrastructure.
The Government recognises that biofuels may play a role in future off-gas-grid decarbonisation
Exactly how much money this could save the Government is clear, as the MP states: “To encourage consumers to install low-carbon alternatives, a new £450 million three-year Boiler Upgrade Scheme will offer households £5,000 for low-carbon heating systems, such as heat pumps and £6,000 for ground source heat pumps. This scheme is open to domestic properties, running from 2022 to 2025.”
Research by OFTEC shows that the cost of converting existing non-HVO ready oil boilers to HVO would cost around £600 per home, considerably less than £6k, so why doesn’t it look to save over £5k per home when there are, according to the Energy Saving Trust, over 4m off grid homes in the UK? Of course, there would need to be an HVO awareness raising campaign, but there would still be real savings to be had in the Government’s spending.
The MP does make a short reference to HVO but seems to be unaware of OFTEC’s research and two-year trials: “The Government recognises that biofuels such as hydrotreated vegetable oil biodiesel may play a role in future off-gas-grid decarbonisation, particularly for properties that are not suitable for a heat pump. However, further evidence is needed to consider what role these biofuels could play and to develop the policy framework which would support such a role.”
The Government already has all the proof it needs from OFTEC:
- HVO is low carbon
- HVO is 100% sustainable.
- HVO reduces emissions by 90% when it replaces kerosene for heating.
We are taking some positives from the fact that the wheels seem to be turning in the right direction for HVO, although slowly! We remain concerned that there are still MPS who appear not to fully understand how HVO can play an important role in decarbonising off-grid homes and seem to be unaware of the results of OFTECs research projects. We also believe the Government is still placing too much faith in heat pumps being the only solution to solve the heating and decarbonising crisis. Heat pumps clearly have an important role to play in the solution, but they are not the only solution, and one size does not fit all. HVO offers an affordable, easy solution for millions of off-grid homes to enjoy affordable warm homes whilst reducing their carbon footprint and we need to ensure all MPs are aware of this.