Time for things to get real: decarbonising rural heat

Duncan Carter, Corporate Affairs Manager, Calor

We are delighted that Calor are the headline sponsors for this year’s Heat and Decentralised Energy conference (to be held in London on 25 March). In this blog, Duncan Carter, Calor’s Corporate Affairs Manager, sets out how their business transformation supports their customers in moving towards a zero carbon future.

Meeting the UK’s legally binding commitment to Net Zero is both vital and urgent. The UK has already made significant progress in lowering emissions, mostly by lowering carbon from electricity generation by moving away from coal and investing in renewable generation. But the next phase of Net Zero is when ‘things get real’: we will all need to make changes that affect our day to day lives including how we travel, what we eat, and how we insulate and heat our homes.

Home heating produces about 18% of our annual carbon emissions, which needs to fall to Net Zero before 2050. At Calor, we have been supplying energy to rural homes and businesses off the gas grid for over 80 years. Our fuel is already cleaner and lower carbon than many of the fuels used off grid, such as heating oil and coal. But Net Zero means we need to do more, which is why we have committed to moving to 100% renewable fuels by 2040. We set on this path before Net Zero was enshrined into law and already supply enough renewable fuel to meet the equivalent of 30% of our customers’ total domestic heating requirement.

We must also stop wasting energy in our homes. Rural homes are very different to urban: they are generally older, detached, and with lower levels of energy efficiency. Research by National Energy Action and the Campaign to Protect Rural England recently found that rural areas are five years behind urban areas in terms of the energy efficiency of their homes. Only 3% of off-grid homes are at the required future EPC level of Band C. A massive investment is urgently required. But most of the easy stuff has already been done. According to a survey of rural off gas grid households Calor conducted recently, 79% have already installed double-glazing and 72% loft insulation. The next phase will include underfloor and external wall insulation and will be much more disruptive to consumers’ lives, and more expensive.

Consumers need to be on board with these changes. If high costs and disruption are imposed on consumers, there will be resistance and delay. The rollout of smart meters shows that just because something is a good idea does not mean consumers will take time out of their busy lives.

Switching to a low carbon fuel like Calor’s bioLPG means consumers can continue to use their existing gas boiler and gain an immediate carbon saving of around 80% compared to conventional LPG fuel. The savings are even greater if oil boilers and coal are displaced. This means we can start saving carbon now, giving us time to win over hearts and minds and complete the massive and complex job of upgrading energy efficiency in our rural homes.