UKIFDA – working to bring biofuels to market

2nd June 2020

In the final blog of the series, UKIFDA takes you through some of the ongoing work we are doing with other Trade Associations in our industry and with government bodies in all parts of the UK and Ireland to facilitate a transition to low carbon liquid fuels compatible with your current oil boiler system.

UKIFDA supports net zero aims with regard to carbon emissions and all greenhouse gases (GHGs) but we have continually stressed that:-

  • Governments should be technology neutral. They should set milestones but not dictate how they should be achieved. Government in our opinion have a poor record of picking winners.
  • Improving energy efficiency is key irrelevant of what technology or fuel used and will produce significant emissions savings without any system changes.
  • Chosen heating solutions should not increase fuel poverty in UK and Ireland.
  • Consumers should not be rushed into making inefficient and costly changes to their heating system. They need to make the right decision at the right time for their home. Our first article says more about this transitional point – here. Governments should encourage consumers to replace old systems with newer equipment (even on the same technology). A replacement condensing boiler could reduce emissions and costs by 25% versus an older boiler. (47% of off grid homes in England still have a standard efficiency boiler which will be over 12 years old.)[1]
  • There is not one solution that will fit all homes. Net zero will be achieved through a multitude of different solutions aligned to the fabric of each home and the pockets of each consumer.

Currently, 1.5m homes in the UK and 686,000 homes in Ireland use oil-based systems (liquid fuel) for heating and hot water.  There is no doubt that these numbers will reduce over time as suitable technologies are deployed. It is important to note that we are not trying to defend the size of our industry without thought for the overall goal.

What we are trying to do is convince Governments that liquid fuel can and should play a part in that future. Why? Well here are some stats that may show why off gas grid heating is a difficult area to resolve without a biofuel solution: –

  • Only 3% of all homes in GB achieve an EPC rating of A, B or C [1] – suitable for conversion to electric solutions with low insulation or infrastructure costs. 89% of off grid homes in ROI were below BER rating C1 in an OFTEC commissioned study in April 2018.
  • 14% of English households that use liquid fuel are classified as fuel poor versus a national average of 11%. Rural fuel poverty across the UK is 12.5% [2]
  • 43% of Scottish households that use liquid fuel are classified as fuel poor [3]
  • 400,000 households in ROI are fuel poor [4]
  • Only 30% of electricity generated in ROI is from renewable sources [5]. In the UK, this figure is around 50% so electrical solutions are not zero carbon.
  • Sutherland Tables suggests that the annual cost of heating a 3-bedroom home in GB based on Q1 2020 data using liquid fuel was £808 versus £1,551 for LPG and £1,606 for air source heat pump (ASHP) with radiators (an ASHP solution is likely to be a combination of underfloor heating downstairs and radiators upstairs).
  • Sutherland Tables suggests that the annual cost of heating a 3-bedroom home in ROI based on Q1 2020 data using liquid fuel was €1,154 versus €2,463 for LPG and €1,695 for an ASHP.
  • Additional fabrication costs (insultation and radiators that are required in order that off grid housing stock can work with an ASHP) will add further significant costs. This is due to the location, age and fabric of the buildings. For instance, in England, 46% of off grid homes were built pre-1919 with solid (not cavity) walls.

Throughout 2019, OFTEC commissioned a study of biofuel (through consultants In Perpetuum) with the help of a cross industry steering team on which UKIFDA were delighted to participate.

The results showed that biofuels provided the lowest cost per tonne of carbon saving versus other technologies and therefore should not be excluded from future solutions if governments really want to provide the best options for end consumers.

You can find more detail here

The key graphs from their strategy document are reproduced below

Graph 1 shows how 100% liquid biofuel creates the best carbon saving.

Graph 2 shows that the cost of carbon saving via other technologies is much higher with the final 100% biofuel costing £122 to save one tonne versus £321 per tonne using an ASHP. Even the transitional B30k only costs £175 per tonne. More information on this transitional fuel is outlined below.

Graphs provided with kind permission from OFTEC.

Alongside Tank Storage Association and OFTEC, UKIFDA has committed to ready respective supply chains to be able to distribute a 0% fossil fuel across the UK and Ireland by 2035 although early adopters and suppliers of this new fuel will have this to market in certain areas of the country in the 2020s. Our supply chains will be ready to distribute the transitional fuel across the UK and Ireland by 2027.

They have also committed to supporting research and development into new fuels, some of which propose using waste products like plastic and tyres to create new biofuels which has to be a positive development for our planet.

UKIFDA has been asked to chair a cross industry steering group tasked with setting up trials of transitional fuels in domestic homes across the UK and Ireland in winter 2020. Although successful transitional fuels were completed and reported to government in 2010, current government continually ask for evidence to support our strategy! Allied to this field trail, laboratory trials will begin using independent academia to show how new products and currently available bio products could be utilised to create the new 0% fossil liquid fuel. These will then also be tested in domestic homes.

However, as previously outlined, the first step on the fuels transition in the 2020s is to focus on improving energy efficiency in all homes – a policy which is receiving widespread support across all parties, but which now needs government policies to help consumers make it happen. UKIFDA is actively lobbying in this area.

Lobbying takes a number of different forms including:

  • Direct communications with Ministers and MPs.
  • Attendance at forums and meetings hosted by relevant government departments.
  • Responses to consultation documents published by governments
  • Working joint statements across the industry sector
  • Directly talking to consumers via our website and social media and providing information that they can use to talk to their local MP.

UKIFDA is working alongside a number of organisations on this topic including those already mentioned and the Sustainable Energy Association (SEA) who recently stepped into the vacuum of government policy and produced a report into how a transition of off grid home heating could take place. This may not be the final transitional plan, but it is a great start in getting governments to set goals and targets that industry and consumers can work towards and we look forward to working with SEA.

But we now need your help. The UKIFDA members will soon begin to engage directly with you – the 1.5m homeowners in the UK and 686,000 in Ireland who use oil to heat your homes and who need a bio liquid fuel drop-in replacement. Our Members will be able to give you more detail on the UKIFDA strategies and we need to you to then raise those issues with your local MP & TD so that they can support the transitional plans of our industry and achieve decarbonisation, for the benefit of all, well within the timeframes outlined in the Paris Agreement.

[2] (Question to Minister in Commons November 2018)
[3] Fuel Poverty Parliamentary Group Annual Report
[4] Scottish Government statistics
[5] Irish Times when quoting former Minster for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment Denis Naughten at the Fuel Poverty & Climate Action conference, held in Dublin in 2017.
[6] Minister Bruton statement March 2019

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