Government Renewable Heat Incentive will increase carbon emissions in rural areas

OFTEC Press Release, December 2012

The proposed Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is unlikely to tackle the problem of carbon emissions from rural homes, according to one of the main bodies for the heating industry.

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 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. They would also cost three times more to install than it would cost to convert existing oil heating systems to run on bio-liquid. As 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, whilst the technologies it favoured were unsuitable for the majority of the UK’s existing housing stock – unless very significant and expensive home alterations also are 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.”

In responding to other points in the consultation, OFTEC 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. It 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.



The link below shows how CO2 emissions will rise in off gas main areas due to RHI.

The RHI Impact Assessment (IA) estimates 116,000 RHI installations in rural areas (Para 101 – 38% of 380,000). For the purpose of this calculation we have assumed that these will be split between ASHP, Ground Source Heat Pumps and Bio-mass boilers as per Table 4 of the IA, and that all of these will replace existing oil boilers.

Under this assumption total CO2 emission p.a. from ASHP, GSHP and bio-mass boilers would be 1.181 million tonnes of CO2 p.a. If all these boilers were to convert to B30K bio-liquid the total CO2 emissions would be 531,000 tonnes of CO2 p.a. – 650,000 tonnes (or 55%) less than the result with the RHI proposed technologies.

RHI response CO2 Emission Summary

B30K bio-liquid is a blend of waste oil and kerosene. It comprises 30% bio-liquid Fatty Acid Methyl Ester (FAME) blended with 70% kerosene. B30k formed part of the original RHI consultation in February 2010. It was excluded from the proposals currently under consultation.

Source: Oftec

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