Affordable green heating for rural homes campaign

Renewable liquid fuels - Q&A

This Q&A is based on currently available information and will be regularly updated

There are many exciting and viable options. Of the fuels currently available, Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO), a type of biodiesel, is the preference as it is a drop-in replacement for heating oil, so few changes will be needed to existing heating systems. HVO offers high levels of carbon emission reduction and can be blended with heating oil without adverse effects.
Our aim is to enable all existing oil heating users to convert to a 100% sustainable fossil-free liquid fuel by 2035, well ahead of governments' decarbonisation targets. However, the new fuels are expected to be available much sooner, giving households plenty of time to switch. Limited supplies of HVO are already on the market.
At this stage it is hard to say. Initially it’s likely that the new fuels will cost more than heating oil but as demand and production increase, we expect the price will fall. The oil heating industry is discussing with government how best to introduce the new fuels and we have recommended that a small subsidy is initially offered to cushion consumers from any price changes. Even if the new fuel is more expensive, it is likely to be much cheaper than switching to a completely different heating system.
The raw materials used to make the new heating fuel will be fully certified as sustainable, and we are committed to ensuring there is no adverse impact on the environment. We aim to only use fuels manufactured from recycled waste materials such as used cooking oils or crop residues. Biofuel crops that have displaced previously natural landscapes or land used for food production will not be used.
Demand for renewable liquid fuels is increasing - but so is supply of the waste materials to manufacture these fuels. Large quantities of biodiesel are already used in fuels for road transport but, as electric vehicles become more common, the raw material can be used to make renewable heating oil instead. New innovations in manufacture may also revolutionise the industry, making these fuels plentiful and cheap. Clear policy support from government will encourage investment, helping to further increase supply.
It is likely that the UK will always rely on imported feedstocks as there isn't enough waste material available domestically to make all the fuel needed for the heating and transport markets. This is no different to the situation now with existing fuels. However, government could introduce measures to improve UK waste capture and fuel production capacity which, for some fuel types, lags behind other countries in Europe. It is also likely that changes in land use may enable more waste to be generated from crop residues.

So, how will this impact me now?

Changes to the way we heat our homes must happen in the future but replacing an existing boiler should be a future-proof investment. There are no current plans to end the use of heating oil (see answer below), and modern boilers will work efficiently with the renewable liquid fuels the oil heating industry is developing. Conversion to the new fuels is expected to be straightforward and inexpensive. It is also worth remembering that, even if you continue to use fossil fuels, updating your existing system with a high efficiency condensing boiler will almost certainly reduce your energy bills - and your emissions - often by a substantial amount.
There are currently no plans to ban the use of heating oil. However, to achieve the UK's climate change targets, we must reduce emissions from home heating. To do this, government may insist that heating systems meet stricter carbon emission targets. However, it is likely that government will only consider banning the use of fossil fuels such as heating oil when low carbon options are affordable, widely available, and most homes are converted.
Government has not published any plans to ban the use of existing oil boilers. However, it is considering phasing out the installation of new fossil fuel appliances (oil, LPG, mains gas and coal-fired systems) during the 2020s - although so far this only applies to new build properties. The oil heating industry is developing a renewable liquid fuel to replace heating oil which would make banning oil boilers unnecessary.

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