Belfast Telegraph

Business Soapbox: David Blevings

No single solution can meet society's future energy needs. The solution will come from a family of diverse energy technologies and that will include oil and other fossil fuels

The increasing price of energy has once again ignited the debate about the options for future energy requirements and in particular for heating the domestic home.

The government has signed up to the EU Climate Change Package that proposes a 20% cut in emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020, a 20% increase in the share of renewables in the energy mix; and a 20% cut in energy consumption. This was meant to give 'green' and renewable technologies a kick-start. So, why are we not rushing to embrace this new technology and move away from fossil fuels? Simply put, the majority of renewable technologies for home heating available today are capital intensive and require long payback periods. The majority are still beyond the reach of most ordinary consumers without substantial government funding.

The reality is that Northern Ireland, with a rural hinterland will continue to rely on home heating oil for years to come. That's not to say we can't use it wisely or integrate a renewable element - solar thermal panels linked to a condensing oil boiler are now proving popular.

The recent change in NI building regulations means it is now mandatory to install a condensing boiler in a new house or replacing an elderly appliance. Add in heating controls, loft insulation, cavity wall insulation and a cylinder thermostat and you could be looking at up to a 50% saving in your annual energy bill.

In these difficult economic times, we would encourage homeowners to review their current energy spend and seek advice on energy efficiency from the local Oftec registered technician.

The local oil sector has embraced the move to more sustainable fuels and is working with the NIHE to trial a B30 mix of fossil fuel and FAME (a 30% bio-element of used cooking oil or rape seed). This product will be available next year and offers consumers a quick route into renewable fuels with minimal capital cost.

No single solution can meet society's future energy needs. The solution will come from a family of diverse energy technologies and yes, that will include oil and other fossil fuels but used wisely, efficiently and in partnership with renewables.

David Blevings, Ireland manager of the Oil Firing Technical Association

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