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Sustainable Business 2019

Decarbonising energy in the rural UK – a unique challenge


Andy Parker

Head of Strategy and Corporate Affairs, Calor Gas

Rural communities across the UK face the same ultimate challenge as the rest of the country – needing to decarbonise the heating energy requirements across all homes and business to meet the carbon budgets for the UK and head towards the Net Zero ambitions set out by the Committee on Climate Change.

However, the obstacles faced are unique to this sector due to many factors, including the age and style of building, the current and bespoke nature of their existing heating systems and an increased level of fuel poverty in these areas.

The transition needs careful management and a broad spectrum of solutions to deliver the end goal. Those in rural communities not connected to the gas grid (including over two million homes and a significant number of businesses) will generally either use heating oil, coal, electricity or liquid petroleum gas (LPG) to heat their property – and the government has already committed to phasing out high carbon fossil fuels such as oil and coal in the 2020s.

Green gas is key in a range of solutions

We recognise that the transition away from fossil fuels has begun and we believe that any future off-grid heat strategy must offer a range of solutions to meet the vast array of housing stock and business applications. It is also vital that green gas is included as a key solution, which is why we are devoting significant resources to innovation and diversification. A dedicated technical team of industry experts and academics are working on bringing new, high-efficiency heating applications and low-carbon renewable fuels, such as BioLPG, to the rural energy market.

BioLPG can reduce carbon emissions by 90%

While BioLPG can reduce carbon emissions by around 90%, it’s also chemically identical to conventional LPG, so it is a future-proof solution, as it is a drop-in replacement fuel for all existing LPG heating systems. It can also replace existing oil-based heating systems (with simply a new LPG boiler to replace the oil one) offering a change with limited disruption and low cost to the end user, allowing them to decarbonise without a heavy burden on those in fuel poverty.

Sourcing and supplying BioLPG into the UK is a transition that has already started. The volume delivered so far is already enough to meet the demand of around 20% of our existing domestic central heating customer base, so significant strides have been taken in a short time. However, the technical team are continuing to research new and efficient methods of production for the future, which will form part of the range of options available for rural UK.

The path towards decarbonised energy for heating is a vital one for the UK to undertake and rural communities have an important role to play. We are committed to enabling this to happen through an ambition of supplying only renewable fuels by 2040 – helping the UK to achieve its decarbonisation targets in a cost-effective manner.

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