Rural heating poll highlights policy challenges facing UK election candidates

With the UK Parliamentary election well underway, newly published consumer research has highlighted that decarbonising rural heating is an important voter concern.

In the poll of just under 1,000 rural homeowners, carried out by the Future Ready Fuel campaign, 85% of respondents said the government and opposition party policies on low-carbon home heating will influence how they cast their vote at the ballot box.

The poll found that consumer choice is an important priority for voters. 94% said they should be responsible for choosing the heating system they install when it needs to be replaced, compared to just 2% who thought the government should have the final say.
88% of respondents said they would prefer to switch to HVO, compared to just 6% for a heat pump.

Support for HVO was further reinforced by 97% who said the incentives on HVO in transport and aviation should also apply to home heating.
When asked how much they would be willing to spend on a new heating system, 56% of those surveyed said between £1,000 to £5,000. Only 2% said up to £15,000. Reflecting the current squeeze on household spending, two thirds (64%) were also more concerned about the cost of installing a low carbon heating system than three years ago.

The findings are significant because UK government policy to date has assumed most households will be required to eventually adopt heat pumps. They also underline the challenge of convincing voters to embrace low carbon solutions such as heat pumps, where installation costs often exceed £20,000 once all the retrofit tasks are included.

Other answers suggest the poll is likely to be representative of the rural off-gas grid heating sector. For example, among the findings in the survey, over 40% of respondents said their property was over 100 years old. Whilst over 90% had loft insulation and double glazing, only 43% had cavity wall insulation, 19% external wall insulation and 14% underfloor heating. These numbers are broadly in line with wider national data.

As a result of the poll, trade associations OFTEC and UKIFDA, which back the Future Ready Fuel campaign, are urging all political parties to publicly commit to delivering on the commitments Parliament made last year in passing the Energy Act. This included provision to legislate for a Renewable Liquid Heating Fuel Obligation.

The voter concern, and strong public backing for renewable liquid fuels to be supported by the next government, is a powerful endorsement of the work carried out by the liquid fuel heating industry, which has included a demonstration project where around 150 oil heated properties across the UK successfully switched to the renewable liquid fuel Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO).

The sustainably-sourced fuel can reduce emissions by up to 88% and only requires a small, inexpensive modification to an existing oil heating system – factors that appeal strongly to rural voters.