OFTEC, the trade association for the liquid fuel industry, is urging Northern Ireland homeowners and businesses to have their say in a Government paper outlining options for how NI will lower its carbon emissions.
The Energy Strategy consultation, issued by the Department of Energy, presents options for how NI could achieve net zero by 2050, but consumers are being cautioned that they should have their say or risk financial implications.
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 significant emphasis on the use of heat pumps for off-grid properties.
Heat pumps have featured heavily in Boris Johnson's plans for a 'green industrial revolution' and well documented research indicates that these work well in homes with sufficient installation. According to the latest Home Condition Survey, less than 50% of homes in Northern Ireland have an Energy Efficiency Rating (EEC) of C or above1, meaning that they would require costly and potentially disruptive home improvement for heat pumps to work efficiently.
It has been estimated that bringing homes heated by liquid fuel up to an acceptable level of insulation could cost on average between £12,300 - £18,9002 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 second of the options put forward by the Government paper 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 the use of biofuels and biomass in addition to heat pumps.
OFTEC Ireland Manager, David Blevings said: "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 home in order for this technology to work efficiently. The industry is proposing an alternative approach offering to reduce carbon emissions by just changing the fuel in the boiler. Biofuels such as hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) can do exactly this. It 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.
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."
"HVO is already available in Northern Ireland 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.
1 Northern Ireland House Condition Survey (NIHCS) 2016.
2 UK Gov. Parliamentary Questions, 30 September 2020; MCS Low Carbon Heat Taskforce Average Cost of Certified Installations by Technology