Urgent re-think on carbon reduction policies needed

Jeremy Hawksley
Jeremy Hawksley
Jeremy Hawksley
Jeremy Hawksley

On the back of government plans to reduce ‘out of control’ green energy costs, says it’s time to look at more pragmatic and affordable ways to reduce carbon emissions and heating bills.

Last week, the Department of Energy and Climate Change () announced there will be no further funding available for the and Home Improvement Fund () schemes, alongside sweeping cuts to subsidies for the renewable energy sector.

Qualifying the moves, energy and climate change secretary Amber Rudd, said the government’s priority was to ‘keep bills as low as possible for hardworking families and businesses’ and to ‘reduce emissions in the most cost effective way’.

This is a sentiment OFTEC has supported from the outset, but inadequate carbon reduction schemes such as the Green Deal and the failing domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) clearly show that, to date, the government has been using the wrong vehicles to achieve its aims.

OFTEC says a complete re-think on carbon reduction and energy efficiency policies in the UK is what’s needed and that consumers would be far more receptive to more affordable, easier to implement measures.

These should be led by an all-inclusive boiler scrappage scheme for gas and oil boilers to incentivise the take up of high efficiency condensing models which can reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by up to 30% and significantly cut energy bills – in additional to the current cost savings from consistently low oil prices.

An estimated two thirds of oil heated households in Great Britain still use standard efficiency non-condensing boilers, equating to approximately 600,000 units, so the potential for carbon savings via this route is huge. A similar, highly successful scheme is currently running in Northern Ireland which has seen more than 13,350 new condensing oil boilers installed between September 2012 and March 2015.

Jeremy Hawksley, director general at OFTEC, said: “The government seems to be finally recognising that its current carbon reduction policies simply aren’t fit for purpose. The Green Deal failed to deliver its potential and the extremely low take up of the domestic RHI just serves to highlight the lack of appetite most consumers have for expensive renewable technologies – even with government support.

“Instead of encouraging people to completely change their heating systems which can be both costly and complicated, the government should be pushing more affordable, easier to implement measures such as a boiler scrappage scheme. The approach is working extremely well in Northern Ireland and with so many old oil boilers in need of an upgrade in Great Britain, a similar scheme could result in significant carbon savings as well as help reduce heating costs.

“When outlining DECC’s priorities for 2015, Amber Rudd said her focus was ‘much more on carbon reduction targets, which are more essential than the renewable energy targets’. We couldn’t agree more. We need to find practical ways of reducing CO2 emissions which will capture consumers’ interest – and help them save money – rather than pushing costly renewables which are only viable for the wealthy few.”