Simon Lomax, Kensa Heat Pumps


There has been much industry discussion recently about the growing problem of fuel poverty and the heating technologies that could help alleviate this issue. The oil heating body OFTEC has suggested that oil boilers are a more suitable solution than GSHPs for rural householders in fuel poverty – a suggestion that Kensa disagrees with (read our published response and the original article).


Kensa’s CEO Simon Lomax offers his opinion:

The suggestion by Paul Rose, the CEO of oil heating body OFTEC, that high carbon oil boilers should continue to be the favoured fuel heating solution for rural householders suffering from fuel poverty was based upon the wildly inaccurate claim that such a system offers ‘the cheapest fuel available to off-grid homes.’  It is a very odd statement to be included in a press release which begins boldly by proclaiming ‘let’s start with some facts’.

Nonetheless, let’s do just that.  According to Boilerjuice, the online oil purchasing portal, the average price of oil over the six month period to Dec 31 2018 was 53.7p per litre.  If we assume an energy content of 10.4 kilowatt hours (kWh) per litre and a generous oil boiler efficiency of 80%, the cost of heat is 6.45p per kWh.  By contrast, numerous suppliers offer electricity at less than 16p per kWh which means a heat cost of 5.33p per kWh if we assume a modest efficiency of 300% for a ground source heat pump.  Far from being the cheapest option, heat from an oil boiler costs 21% more.

Far from being the cheapest option, heat from an oil boiler costs 21% more

Of course, the emergence of dynamic tariffs (which vary electricity charges depending upon the time of use) will permit further savings for the heat pump option as will the use of heat storage products, smart controls and, in some circumstances, battery storage.  These technologies are all far more worthy of support via the Energy Company Obligation than the continued proliferation of oil boilers and their excessive carbon footprint.  And it is certainly excessive.

Using the carbon intensity factors proposed for SAP 10, an oil boiler emits almost five times as much carbon as a ground source heat pump so there is absolutely no justification for their continued use when far more appealing options are available (and sensibly supported by a Government who understands these facts).  And we haven’t even talked about air quality.  Mr Rose can come back to the table if synthetic oils ever emerge to reduce the carbon emissions but the harsh reality for his sector is that other technologies are making bigger strides forward and will offer more compelling choices for those in fuel poverty and beyond.  Climate change was caused by oil: oil will not be the saviour.”

Industry experts added their support to Kensa’s dismissal of OFTEC’s claims:

David Pearson of Star Renewable Energy replied to Kensa’s article:

Hard to add more than Simon already has other than to say that the real challenge is not to offer a better outcome than oil in the countryside but better than gas in the cities.

This will define our success or failure to provide an outcome our children will be proud of……….and it absolutely will include consideration of air pollution. gas is a dirty fuel by comparison to a heat pump – of course oil being even worse!

Graham Hazell of the Heat Pump Association replied:

“Sorry kids and Grandkids. we were so inconsiderate and tight we decided to burn oil and ruin the climate beyond repair” or that seems to be what OFTEC would say.

Agree with Simon Lomax: the oil industry has some very big questions to answer re climate change.

As Rose says ECO 3 is there to help those less able to pay and it would be easy to support this further for the sake of low carbon solutions for future generations rather than continue to install 100,000’s of oil boilers in the hope that a suitably low carbon low cost bio oil will be viable.

A similar argument (economics) was used by UK manufacturers of land mines- hey ho

An oil boiler emits almost five times as much carbon as a ground source heat pump

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