Heating Oil Industry Responds to Government's Bio Mess Proposals

4th April 2012
The oil heating industry has responded to last week's announcement of a delay to the introduction of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) for consumers in Great Britain and the extension of the Renewable Heat Premium Payment scheme (RHPP) for domestic consumers.

Low Temperature Systems v High Temperature Systems

Alan Black is the principal oil and bio-liquid applications consultant in the UK and Republic of Ireland. In the wake of last week's announcement, Alan has expressed grave concern over the potential impact of the RHPP announcement upon oil heating consumers.

"Whilst heating oil installations appear to be HM Government's primary target market for displacement with new, low carbon technologies, the government has missed a key point. Replacing any 'high temperature' heat producing appliance such as an oil fired boiler, with a 'low temperature' alternative, will require the replacement of the property's radiator system, with a much larger system, effectively requiring the property to be re-plumbed.

"It is clear that low temperature systems, such as Electric Heat Pumps are really only suitable for installation at properties, constructed in accordance with 2006 Building Regulations. So somebody living in an older property requiring a boiler replacement, will be guided to Green Deal funding to help them pay for the additional roof and wall insulation which will invariably be required. This might be fine if their property does not currently have cavity wall insulation. But if they do have cavity wall insulation or live in a home of single wall construction, they may find themselves somewhat scuppered. So what do they do?", asks Alan.

Biomass or Bio Mess?

"Well, the RHPP policy document advocates the displacement of oil with bio-mass as a means of reducing carbon. But it fails to acknowledge or address the consequential increase in particulate emissions, by switching from heating oil to biomass. These are such a significant public and environmental heath concern, that the likes of Boris Johnson have banned their use. And Boris is not alone. Progressive states in the USA have mandated the compulsory replacement of oil heating installations with bio-liquid fuelled appliances, effectively prohibiting the installation of solid biomass boilers.

"Yet whilst the government is willing to fund the introduction of 'low temperature' and biomass technologies and appears reluctant to get behind bio-liquids, the RHPP proposals acknowledge that "...recovered cooking oil or liquids produced from oil seed, starch or sugar crops can be used to displace fossil fuels in several applications including heating..." So at the same time as government is spending taxpayers' money on alternative technologies, they are also admitting the oil heating industry is right!

"All industry now needs to do is to make bio-liquid fuels available for home heating applications, thus enabling the oil consumer to reduce their carbon emissions. The switch to bio-liquids will allow homeowners and householders to make the switch to a lower carbon fuel, without adding additional pollutants such as particulates to the atmosphere; without having to rebuild their home; and, without having to replace their entire heating system!", states Alan.

Unsuitable Technology

The Oil Fired Technical Association (OFTEC) has expressed similar dismay at the announcement. In a letter to the Greg Barker, the Minister of State for Climate and Energy Change, OFTEC has asked for reassurance that oil heating consumers will not be disadvantaged by the decision to postpone phase two of the RHI until 2013, and in the interim to extend the Renewable Heat Premium Payment Scheme.

OFTEC Director General Jeremy Hawksley says, "The RHPP does not currently address the needs of the majority of oil heating consumers who live in older properties in rural areas. Renewable technologies such as air and ground source heat pumps are simply not suitable for the majority of those homes; they cannot provide sufficient heat and they are very expensive. Instead we should be looking to convert those households to bio-liquids which is a lower carbon fuel.

Conversion costs are modest and, with 80,000 oil boilers being replaced every year, many consumers could easily switch to bio-liquid condensing boilers if the RHPP and the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) provided an incentive for bio-liquids."

However, thus far, DECC clearly disagrees with OFTEC's assessment.

The extended RHPP package is designed to primarily target homeowners in off-mains areas, with oil heating users in Great Britain, being offered government hand-outs of up to £950 to switch from heating oil to renewables. Yet, despite oil heating representing fewer than 1 in 10 domestic heating installations in Great Britain, OFTEC estimates that the UK could save up to two million tonnes of carbon emissions per annum by switching oil households to bio-liquids.
 


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Article Last Updated 4th April 2012
 
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