Rural homeowners living in Cornwall must be offered a fairer, more affordable way to cut emissions from their home heating to stop more being pushed into fuel poverty, says an industry trade association this Warm Homes Week 2021.

The annual event, which runs between 27-30 September and is hosted by National Energy Action (NEA), brings hundreds of organisations together to look at what can be done to tackle the issues of cold homes and fuel poverty that continue to blight many people’s lives.

Although latest government statistics show the number of fuel poor households in England is falling, down 1.6% on the previous year, 3.18 million - 13.4% of the population - are still struggling to meet their energy costs, including around 29,100 in Cornwall.

The figures also highlight that rural households are more likely to be fuel poor than those with a gas connection - 18.2% vs 12.7%.

The fuel poverty gap - the reduction in fuel costs needed to take a household out of fuel poverty – is also over three times higher in rural areas than in urban regions at £585 compared to £180.

The organisation claim this is largely because rural properties tend to be older, larger and poorly insulated, making them more difficult and expensive to heat.

On top of this, concerns are beginning to surface over the high costs many rural households in Cornwall could face under government’s current plans to cut carbon emissions from home heating.

Support has been pledged to help some of those on the lowest incomes make the necessary changes but OFTEC, a trade association for liquid fuel heating, says many households deemed ‘able to pay’ will be adversely affected, with those in rural areas likely to be hit particularly hard.

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Malcolm Farrow of OFTEC, says: "We are concerned about how the households in Cornwall who are already only ‘just about managing’ will meet the high cost of installing a new low carbon heating system, plus the expensive home insulation improvements often needed.

"The risk is these households will either be pushed into financial difficulty or simply not able to take action, so progress on cutting emissions in off-gas-grid homes will stall."

OFTEC says households must be offered a wider range of cheaper, easier to install low carbon heating solutions than those currently on offer – and that renewable liquid fuels should be included in the mix.

Successful trials of a fossil free fuel that offers an almost drop-in replacement for heating oil are underway in a range of rural homes and buildings across the UK, spearheaded by OFTEC and the UK and Ireland Fuel Distributors Association (UKIFDA).

The fuel, called Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO), is made from waste materials, certified as sustainable by the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC), and immediately cuts carbon emissions by almost 90%.

Converting oil heating systems to run on HVO is also simple and typically costs around £500.

Malcom Farrow concludes: "A renewable liquid fuel solution would help overcome the major cost and disruption issues many rural households face and in a recent survey of over 1,500 oil heated homeowners, an overwhelming 98% said they would be interested in this option.

"This Warm Homes Week we are highlighting the strong case to include renewable liquid fuels in future heating policy and calling for increased government support to ensure this more affordable route to greener heating is secured for rural households in Cornwall."