Some OFTEC members recently gathered together for their Annual General Meeting and mini-conference in the sumptuous and plush surroundings of a private members' club in London to debate the long term future for the oil heating industry industry. Coinciding with the Northern Ireland Boiler Scrappage Scheme, UK oil boiler sales have increased in the first quarter of this year. OFTEC asked what we can do now to ensure that liquid fuels are being used to heat homes in 2030 and beyond.
Speakers at the event, held in the prestigious Landsdowne Club included Jon Slowe from the Delta Energy and Environment consultancy in Edinburgh, who considered the options for de-carbonising heat up to 2050. This was based on an authoritative study he had done for the Energy Networks Association in late 2012 which concluded that trying to completely de-carbonise heat by 2050 is expensive and wasteful and that an alternative option of encouraging hybrid heating systems could be a better way forward.
From OFTEC, Technical Director Paul Rose outlined the possibilities offered for rural homes by what OFTEC describes hybrid home heating systems - such as combining an oil boiler and an air source heat pump. He described the many advantages that such systems can offer in terms of convenience, carbon savings and ease of installation, particularly to the retrofit market. He also noted that fully integrated systems using multiple energy sources were already available in the gas sector and would probably be commercially available for oil heating in the near future. However, some critics of the concept have likened it to integrating a toaster with a dishwasher; something which is probably possible, but why on earth would anyone wish to do it?
At the AGM Martyn Bridges - Director of Marketing and Technical Support at Worcester Bosch Group was elected OFTEC Chairman for 2013-15, and Nick Hawkins of Deso Engineering - part of Kingspan Group plc, became Vice Chairman. Martyn has worked in the oil heating sector for 35 years and brings a rounded experience of working with oil, renewables and gas in the UK as well as experience of European market sectors.
Commenting on his appointment, Martyn said "In my experience, there has been instances where the oil industry has not advanced at the same pace as the gas industry, which I believe now creates an opportunity for me to help to bring certain approaches from the gas sector of the industry to the oil sector."
With the market for oil boilers predominantly in the replacement sector, OFTEC's strategy is to retain the present oil-fired boiler market share. Using initiatives such as the Oilsave campaign, OFTEC claims it is encouraging consumers to upgrade their appliances to high efficiency technology, as it estimates that around 75% of the 1.4 million oil boilers in the UK are likely to be standard efficiency ones. OFTEC is also lobbying the government to include bio-liquids in the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive, which would make it easier for existing oil users to switch to a lower carbon fuel. However and thus far, government has shown little enthusiasm for the fuel at domestic central heating installations.