Cheaper renewable fuel for NI’s off-grid home critical to net-zero plans

OFTEC tells Westminster committee Northern Ireland needs renewable liquid fuel obligation
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Making renewable liquid fuel more affordable for off-grid homes will be vital if Northern Ireland is to meet its decarbonisation targets, a Westminster committee has heard.

MPs on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee are carrying out an inquiry into the progress Northern Ireland has made transitioning towards renewable energy and achieving its net-zero targets.

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Last Wednesday the committee heard from a delegation on how a Renewable Liquid Fuel Obligation (RLHFO) which would pave the way for cheaper fuel for off-grid homes here. The legislation would be similar to a scheme in the transport sector which has been operating for almost two decades.

OFTEC Ireland Manager, David Blevings, pictured outside Westminster last weekOFTEC Ireland Manager, David Blevings, pictured outside Westminster last week
OFTEC Ireland Manager, David Blevings, pictured outside Westminster last week

The committee heard evidence from David Blevings (Ireland Manager at OFTEC), Paddy Larkin (CEO at Mutual Energy), John Boyce (Wind Development Director at Renewable Energy Systems) and Mark Fitch (Corporate Development Director at Transmission Investment).

Throughout the session, the witnesses stated Northern Ireland currently does not have the grid capacity for homes to transition, en masse, from liquid heating systems to electrical heating systems.

Addressing the committee, Mr Blevings said the introduction of a RLHFO would cost the government nothing and would provide householders with an affordable way to reduce their emissions.

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“Currently, 526,000 homes in Northern Ireland use liquid fuel to heat their homes,” said Mr Blevings.

“Replacing kerosene heating oil with a renewable liquid fuel will ensure that off-grid households across Northern Ireland can decarbonise in an easy, affordable and non-disruptive way.

“It will cost the government nothing to introduce a RLFHO akin to the Renewable Transport Fuel Order (RTFO).

“The obligation would provide a route by which renewable liquid fuels, such as Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO), can be supplied at an affordable cost to oil heating customers.

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“It will provide a pragmatic pathway that yields immediate carbon savings, market certainty and least disruption.”

The panel of witnesses agreed reaching the stage where electricity can sustainably support Northern Ireland’s heating needs will take “decades and substantial investment”.

On average, homeowners in Northern Ireland can expect to pay £24,000 to install a heat pump and retrofit their property with the required insulation.

“While heat pumps may be the answer for some, for a lot of homeowners they are simply financially unviable,” Mr Blevings said.

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“OFTEC believes much, if not all, of Northern Ireland’s rural housing stock could be categorised as complex to decarbonise.

“There is no panacea for decarbonisation. Putting all your eggs in one basket is not a sensible option. We need to use all low carbon and no carbon technologies to meet our net-zero targets and the liquid fuel sector is ready to play its part.

“Through the use of HVO, there is real potential for an affordable solution to the decarbonisation conundrum to be presented to the consumer.”

Highlighting the need for consumers to be brought along on the decarbonisation pathway, Mr Blevings said it was crucial consumers understand policy plans and feel their views have been listened to.

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“If a 20% blend was introduced as part of the UK’s RLFHO, it would see the UK meet its carbon four and five budgets as the roll out could start immediately and would instantly impact all oil heated homes,” he said.

“We already have the equipment, support and a workforce capable of applying HVO conversion at scale and maintaining distribution of the fuel through existing channels across the UK including Northern Ireland.

“The science shows there is more than enough feedstock to supply the UK and Ireland’s heating requirements using HVO.

“It is already being produced in Great Britain and, in Northern Ireland we already have two companies are talking to Invest NI about producing it locally in Derry/Londonderry.”

For more information on biofuels and their importance to Northern Ireland’s decarbonisation pathway visit

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