Martin Cooke clean growth strategy decarbonise

Response to the Clean Growth Strategy

In October the Government launched its ‘Clean Growth Strategy’ which includes proposals to decarbonise off-grid heating in the UK.

For off-grid, although the strategy isn’t explicit, it does reinforce the view that the government is intent on replacing oil and other high carbon heating with renewable technologies, in particular heat pumps. However, EOGB strongly believes that heat pumps are simply impractical and too costly, and that there are more viable solutions for the oil heating industry.


The disadvantages of heat pumps

For a start, implementing a heat pump system costs at least three-times the cost of installing a replacement boiler, and that’s before the need to potentially upgrade radiators. Then, according to the latest Sutherland Tables, operating costs are 88% more expensive compared to a condensing boiler. Just these facts make heat pumps for the majority untenable.

Heat pumps will also draw considerably more power from the electricity supply, where there are already concerns about the load put onto the national grid; in any case, the grid is only 27% green.  A further major concern is the inability to sufficiently insulate the UK’s rural housing stock to high enough standards to achieve the performance that heat pump marketing literature claim.

Further concerns centre on the sheer practicality of heat pump take-up. The majority of boilers are replaced as a result of a ‘distress purchase’ when a system has broken down and needs to be replaced quickly. It takes months to get a heat pump installed once the householder has fathomed out how to go through the lengthy RHI process.

This is not to mention additional generation and infrastructure costs, performance, carbon reduction, return on government investment and practicality.


Another option? 

With 1.4 million homes relying upon oil-fired boilers providing reliable and affordable heating, EOGB supports the view put forward by OFTEC that the simplest way to decarbonise homes that use oil is to convert them to a low carbon bio-oil.

Other sectors already increasingly looking to employ bio-liquid fuels such as HGV road transport, shipping and aviation as well as commercial off-grid heating, and with development and production ongoing it is expected that a low carbon liquid fuel for heating could be readily available by 2022.

We also support OFTEC’s proposal of introducing a nationwide oil boiler replacement programme to incentivise the upgrade of the estimated 400,000 standard efficiency models still in use across England and Wales alone. This would provide immediate carbon reduction and energy efficiency benefits urgently required to help the UK meet its Fourth Carbon Budget targets as calculations show that for the same government spend on RHI to support a heat pump into one household, 18 homes could benefit from a £400 incentive to upgrade their boiler. As a result, their collective carbon reductions would be eight times greater than the home with the heat pump.

At the same time, the replacement boilers would be ready to switch to a liquid biofuel once it becomes available within the next five years. An added benefit would be to help many more homes come out of fuel poverty as their new boiler would be much cheaper to run.

There are many homes and businesses across the UK that rely heavily on oil heating and, although the common perception seems to be that oil heating cannot improve, it could not be further from the truth.


The potential of oil

The government has overlooked the fact that many oil-fired boilers on the market can already achieve the 92% ErP efficiency the government are requiring for any new gas boiler installations, as set out in their updated BoilerPlus policy paper. And EOGB is at the forefront of new oil burner technology, bringing to market Sapphire, the industry’s first low NOx, fully modulating oil-fired burner with OpenTherm controls, which breaks the mould and delivers a whole new level of system efficiency, especially compared to standard on/off and two stage burners. Sapphire has also been fully tested on bio oil blends and EOGB is looking forward to working with industry partners to develop further bio fuels with the aim of moving to a true carbon neutral liquid fuel industry.

Overall, the facts speak for themselves – we need to employ decarbonisation measures that are practical and affordable, and not carry on wasting valuable resources and scarce budgets on idealistic schemes which continue to fail. There is plenty of life left in the oil heating industry and it is time to put forward a realistic alternative as the current options on the table are just not fit for purpose.

If you have a view on this important topic, then we’d love to hear from you. Email Martin, at