Rural Lens Review of Heat and Buildings Strategy

Published on 19th October, the Governments Heat and Buildings Strategy sets out its plan to significantly cut carbon emissions from the UK’s 30 million homes and workplaces in a simple, low-cost and green way whilst ensuring this remains affordable and fair for households across the country. Like the transition to electric vehicles, this will be a gradual transition which will start by incentivising consumers and driving down costs.

The RSN has examined the strategy through a Rural Lens, this is a series of work published by the RSN, where we have reviewed Government strategies and plans from a rural perspective, highlighting your attention to key parts that may affect your rural communities and service delivery.

The key issues that the RSN has highlighted at a glance are:

  • Heat pumps may provide opportunities for around 50% of rural households – the Government believes that 80% of off-grid homes are suitable for a heat pump, but analysis suggests that is more likely to be around 56%.  Therefore, the hard to decarbonise, older housing stock with limited opportunity for further insulation will need other options, including switching to bio-fuels such as bioLPG.
  • The proposed rural first approach, with a replacement boiler ban proposed from 2026 in off grid homes and 2024 for some off grid businesses, will mean higher replacement heating costs for rural homes and businesses compared to urban, where a boiler ban won’t occur until 2035
  • A Heat Pump Ready First approach is reliant on government’s very optimistic aspiration for heat pump costs falling dramatically, from an average of £12k per rural home, to parity with gas boilers by the end of this decade. By going first, rural homes won’t enjoy full benefit from any cost reduction in heat pumps.
  • Diverse and decarbonised - electrification is not the single answer, the government should follow a mixed technology approach including biofuels such as BioLPG and bioliquids Choice, not mandate - options are needed that are suitable for all homeowners, dependent on their situation (financial, physical and property).  To achieve conversion for all homes in 30 years needs financial support, available equipment and a workforce to deliver – which needs a range of solutions.
  • Equal status - Rural areas should not be treated as a test bed to trial systems for the rest of the UK. 2 million diverse homes are not “low or no regret” or “low hanging fruit” – we need to get them right for the policy to work for everyone.

Alongside this Strategy the Government published Consultation Papers on (a) ‘Phasing out the installation of fossil fuel heating in homes off the gas grid’ and (b) Phasing out the installation of fossil fuel heating systems in businesses and public buildings off the gas grid. Both of those Consultations close on 12 January 2022. The RSN will consult its members on the Consultation questions before formulating its response. Details from those responses will be added to this Rural Lens Review in January 2022 when it is submitted.

You can read the full Rural Lens document at this link

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