RHI 'will increase' carbon emissions in rural areas

Published:  13 December, 2012

The government's proposed Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is unlikely to tackle the problem of carbon emissions from rural homes, according to the Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC).

In a written response to the RHI consultation, OFTEC stated that it supported the principle behind the tariff, but was concerned that the practical impact of the RHI will be to increase, not decrease, CO2 emissions from rural homes. This is because the incentivised technologies will run on carbon-rich electricity.

In its most significant criticism OFTEC showed that, up to 2020-21, the technologies preferred in the proposals, which include air and ground source heat pumps and biomass boilers, could emit twice as much CO2 as B30K bio-liquid fuel.

According to OFTEC, the systems would also cost three times more to install than it would cost to convert existing oil heating systems to run on bio-liquid. As a result, OFTEC believes the proposed RHI will actually increase CO2 emissions from rural homes compared to doing nothing.

OFTEC noted that the disruption to homes and bureaucratic complexity of the proposals would inhibit also take up, while the technologies it favoured were unsuitable for the majority of the UK's existing housing stock unless very significant and expensive home alterations are also made.

Commenting on the response, OFTEC director general Jeremy Hawksley said: "In its current form, the RHI strategy incentivises renewables such as biomass and air source heat pumps, which can have high carbon savings. However, this is only true if they run efficiently and the electricity they use is sourced from renewable sources. Our response demonstrates that bio-liquids would be more effective at reducing carbon emissions in off-gas areas, and much cheaper and simpler for homeowners to adopt. With the weather growing colder I'm reminded of the harsh winter of 2010/11 when heat pumps performed poorly, causing higher running costs while failing to keep homes warm. By contrast, oil heating is much more compatible with rural homes off the mains gas network."

OFTEC also expressed concern that the tariff for solar thermal may too low to achieve sufficient take-up. OFTEC also noted that for bivalent or hybrid systems only gas and LPG had been proposed as fuel bivalent options, and requested that liquid fuel be included too.

OFTEC also submitted a critique of the UK and global bioenergy resource final report, suggesting that concerns over the availability of sustainable biofuel were unjustified.

Approximately 2 million consumers in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland use oil for heating.