“Reform or die”

26th Feb 2018


It’s a tough message to receive but the off-grid heating industry has been told this by Government. In their Clean Growth Strategy they plan to “phase out the installation of high carbon fossil fuel heating in new and existing homes currently off the gas grid during the 2020s, starting with new homes.”(p13)

That’s a pretty clear hint, more of a kick up the behind than a tap on the shoulder. So reform it must.

There is some good news, the Government is struggling to find a way of replacing existing oil and LPG systems. Until we get CCS in place, (any bets on 2030?), electric heating isn’t a low carbon solution either. So there’s a lifeline that needs to be grasped.

The LPG sector has suggested biopropane as the solution. A green form of LPG. It certainly ticks the box in that it would no longer be classed as a “high carbon fossil fuel” so then there is no excuse for the Government to kill off the industry.

Oil heats six times the number of off-grid homes than LPG and oil is dirtier than LPG, so it is right in the firing line. The message from BEIS officials couldn’t be clearer, oil needs to clean up its act or the industry will die.

I happen to believe that politicians haven’t really considered the consequences. For example, with nearly 80 percent of rural homes in Northern Ireland using oil I suspect the DUP MPs that prop up the Government aren’t going to be best pleased with this policy. And I suspect Northern Ireland isn’t going to have another RHI scheme to help consumers. So they will have to face higher heating bills, never a great vote winner that!

So the oil industry has a chance. Can it do what LPG has done with biopropane and the gas grid is doing with biomethane, bioSNG, and hydrogen, and find a lower carbon alternative? If it does, the industry has a very long-term and secure future, if it can’t, then the bells will toll.


Best wishes

Mike Foster, CE