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Heat decarbonisation: give rural communities more time urges think tank

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The not-for-profit think tank Locallis has urged government to give rural communities more time for their heat decarbonisation efforts in a recently issued study –“Reaching rural properties: off-grid heating in the transition to net zero”.

The study asks government not to “penalise countryside dwellers by making them guinea pigs” in heat decarbonisation plans. It calls for both a nine year extension to the 2026 deadline for homes off the gas grid to end fossil fuel heating installations, putting them in line with on-grid homes, and an improvement to the incentive schemes available for the adoption of low-carbon technologies such as heat pumps.

Other recommendations in the report include:

  • Support for a good mix of heat decarbonisation technologies – something advocated by most connected to the renewables sector
  • The need for an effective communications and engagement strategy at all levels, to raise awareness and understanding for the 4 million off-grid households across the UK
  • Certainty over the role of biofuels
  • Funding for ‘fabric first’ enhancements to rural homes via local councils – an approach involving careful consideration of the design and construction of buildings to reduce the amount of energy required to heat said homes.
  • A programme of electricity infrastructure upgrades to assist rural homes with the switch to electricity as a primary heating source
  • A review of current Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) methodology, not well-suited to off-grid homes.

Report author, Zayn Qureshi, senior researcher at Localis, said:

“Given the depth and scale of the net zero challenge, government cannot afford to push forward with its current all or nothing approach to heat decarbonisation in rural homes. This not only places an unfair and disproportionate burden on off-grid properties, but it also risks large scale failure in convincing households to take up the switch.

“Government must approach this challenge with a degree of flexibility and adaptability, which takes into consideration the socio-economic place circumstances of households being targeted for the transition.”

Sophia Haywood, Director of Public Affairs at Liquid Gas UK, said:

“The current government strategy for decarbonising off-grid heating is a one size fits all approach, which isn’t fit for purpose. It doesn’t consider the needs of homes and businesses in rural areas, or the complexity of heating rural properties, which are typically harder to heat and expensive to retrofit.

“Liquid Gas UK welcomes the findings from the Localis report, and urges government to consider a broader energy mix, which includes LPG as the lowest carbon traditional fuel, and renewable liquid gases, such as bioLPG and rDME.”

The“Reaching rural properties: off-grid heating in the transition to net zero” study can be downloaded in full here.

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