Decarbonising Heating: Government urged to avoid ‘one size fits all approach’ as poverty levels rise

Decarbonising Heating: Government urged to avoid ‘one size fits all approach’ as poverty levels rise

Tuesday, February 01, 2022 By OFTEC Ireland

According to latest statistics, Northern Ireland is set to face a surge in the number of households in extreme poverty.

The findings by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) predict that all regions in the UK will see extreme poverty rise by more than 10% in the coming year. It is estimated that poverty in Northern Ireland will increase by 67%.

In response, OFTEC Ireland Manager, David Blevings is urging Government to consider a realistic approach when The Decarbonising Heat consultation arrives later this year.

The Consultation will present options for how Northern Ireland can achieve net zero targets by 2050 in the heating sector.

“Living in a cold home can be both physically and mentally harmful. No one should have to decide between eating or staying warm, but that is the reality that many are now having to choose between. 

“We would urge the Government to consider that these are choices currently being faced, as the Decarbonising Heat Consultation approaches. 2022 will be a decisive year that will outline how people will heat their homes going forward in efforts to reach net zero targets by 2050.

“Both the Republic of Ireland and England have actioned plans for decarbonising this sector already. Northern Ireland has the benefit of being in a position that allows us to review and reflect on these approaches.

“In ROI, the Government are offering a grant of up to 50 per cent of a deep retrofit, however the average cost is €56,000, which leaves a large bill for the homeowner to finance, and we don’t see how the savings offered will cover the remaining payments. Similarly, England has offered a £5000 grant towards an air-source heat pump, however the total bill is expected to be between £15,000 and £20,000.

“At a time when households are feeling the pressures of rising costs, it would be unrealistic for the Northern Ireland Government to expect a similar approach to incentivise households to decarbonise.

“Heat pumps and retrofitting will be the right choice for many living in a thermally efficient or recently built house, but for those facing financial difficulties and living in an older, colder home, there must be options considered that won’t leave them behind on the road to net zero.

“Heating oil is currently used in over 500,000 homes in Northern Ireland. A recent analysis by the AECOM engineering company showed that biofuels in home heating could achieve similar emission reductions to retrofitting, but at a much lower cost. The current biofuel being touted as the replacement for kerosene is Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) that offers an immediate c.88% reduction in carbon emissions.

“Our message to local Government would be to examine every option available, and to keep low carbon options and no regret pathways on the new Assembly's agenda when considering the heating consultation later this year. A one size fits all approach must be avoided.”  

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