The Energy Strategy consultation issued by the Department of Energy, under Economy Minister Dianne Dodds, was released to the public outlining ideas to achieve net zero carbon and affordable energy in Northern Ireland.
The consultation has proposed two broad approaches to phasing out fossil fuel heating oils for off-grid consumers. In one of these scenarios, oil boilers would be banned, which would place a significant emphasis on heat pumps for off-grid properties.
The second of these options continues to allow oil boilers for properties and would instead focus on phasing out the sale of fossil fuels. This option would give consumers a range of options for their home heating including biofuels and biomass in addition to heat pumps.
OFTEC has welcomed the Government's interest in fully exploring the role that biofuels and biomass can play in decarbonisation. The paper recognises that biofuels present an 'an opportunity to reduce emissions with minimal disruption and investment' as they can operate within existing distribution networks and boilers.
OFTEC Ireland Manager, David Blevings said: "It is encouraging that the consultation includes the comment, "There will not be a "one size fits all" solution for decarbonising heat in Northern Ireland. We therefore do not intend to remove potential low and zero carbon solutions from consideration at this stage." We have always claimed that a one-size fits all approach to reducing carbon emissions in the home heating sector simply won't work. Whilst heat pumps will be the right decision for some homes, there are over 500,000 homes in Northern Ireland that will require costly and disruptive retrofitting to their installation in order for this heating method to work efficiently. A change to biofuels utilising existing equipment is an easy, low cost and non-controversial option. Consumers must be given a choice rather than have a solution that does not meet their needs imposed upon them."
It has been estimated that bringing homes already heated by liquid fuel up to an acceptable level of insulation would cost on average between £12,300 - £18,900 depending on the type of property. The subsequent average installation cost of an air source heat pump would add approximately an additional £11,000.
The consultation has proposed that the "Oil Industry in Northern Ireland provide a credible pathway
to Net Zero by 2050 involving biofuels. This work must provide robust and comprehensive information on current and future costs and supply."
David continued: "We are welcoming this challenge put forward to our sector and we will work together to deliver a plan outlining how bio-fuels can lead the way to reaching energy targets. Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) offers a near drop-in replacement for heating oil at a fraction of the cost of installing an air source heat pump and an immediate reduction of c.88% in carbon emissions.
"HVO is already available in the UK and global supply is increasing fast. With the right policy support, UK industry could scale up domestic production and deployment to meet the heating requirements of rural homes well within the net zero timeframes. Tackling climate change in the home heating sector needn't leave members of the community behind."
OFTEC's 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' 2050 decarbonisation targets.