Tuesday 14th June 2022
A summary of how energy industry experts believe the new heat and buildings strategy will affect rural homeowners and businesses
The release of the heat and buildings strategy in late 2021, was for many, the first step in understanding how the UK government intends to work towards the decarbonisation of homes and businesses in the UK.
For rural businesses and homeowners, the policy proposes to phase out the use of fossil fuels for all off-grid properties by 2026. This date is nine years earlier than planned for main grid properties, which has led to a significant level of concern for rural communities.
To better understand the extent of the impact of the strategy on rural people, Liquid Gas UK hosted a roundtable with leading industry and rural community experts earlier this year. Below are their key findings.
Liquid Gas UK’s heat and buildings strategy roundtable
The virtual roundtable was held with a representative group from the energy industry and rural community.
What do rural energy experts think about the heating and buildings strategy?
The guidelines in the heat and buildings strategy will put rural people at a disadvantage, particularly those living ‘off-grid’ and relying on traditional fuels including LPG or oil to heat their homes.
In addition to this, the strategy doesn’t consider the implications of changing energy systems for rural people, or the challenges they face heating their homes, compared to the challenges that the urban population face.
The strategy appears to view off-grid properties as easier to decarbonise, but in reality, this isn’t the case. Particularly as many rural properties were built using traditional methods and lack proper insulation.
Although the group are pleased to see a strategy published, there are some clear gaps and many missed opportunities from government, such as the lack of a green energy grant.
The impacts of the heat and buildings strategy on the rural population
Phasing out of fossil fuels will have significant economic impacts on rural communities.
Rural homes are typically harder and therefore, more costly, to heat. However, under the proposed strategy, rural homeowners will be forced to install a new low carbon heating system, such as heat pumps, if their current system fails.
People living in rural properties across England have warned proposals forcing them to upgrade coal or oil-fired heating systems to greener electric systems could cost around £18,000. In certain cases, where home insulation or efficiency upgrades are needed, this figure could be closer to £32,000.
For those in rented properties, it’s important to consider who will cover costs if heating systems do fail. Landlords would likely be expected to pay the cost of installation of new heating systems, but this could be difficult to sort out and may take time, putting the tenant in financial strain as a result.
The economic impacts could have a knock-on social impact on rural people.
Some homeowners might consider moving away from the countryside, rather than stumping the high costs of installing new heating systems. However, many homeowners would not be in the position to even consider moving.
Many rural homeowners are ‘asset rich but cash poor’ with assets being passed down through generations. Salaries in rural communities also tend to be lower than more urbanised communities.
Rural communities also have a larger ageing population. Currently, there are higher numbers of those aged 85 and over in rural communities, than the national average. With this demographic not being able to properly heat their homes, there is a significant health risk.
What can the industry do to mitigate the impacts of the strategy?
With all the potential challenges that could occur throughout the transition to decarbonisation, it’s important for the energy industry to support rural communities in navigating the process in order to soften the impacts.
There are three key areas where rural people can be supported throughout the transition to decarbonisation:
Lobbying and policy change
Lobbying will be important to make sure policy makers understand the real issues facing rural people.
Grants will provide a lifeline for many rural homeowners who may be required to change their heating systems in the next few years, but currently there are very limited options.
Education and training
Cross sharing of information between homeowners, community leaders, energy professionals, policy makers and installers, is vital to make sure there is a better holistic understanding of what policy changes mean for end users.
The trade association for the LPG and bioLPG industry in the UK