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Off-grid Homes: Fuel Bills

Volume 576: debated on Thursday 27 February 2014

This winter’s “Buy oil early” campaign, co-ordinated by my Department, was launched by the industry in September. We have worked with industry to provide consumer guidance on how to form oil buying clubs, which allow savings through bulk buying. I will review its progress at the next ministerial round table in May. The launch of the domestic renewable heat incentive this spring will also provide payments to promote a switch to renewable forms of home heating.

I very much welcome what my right hon. Friend says. As several colleagues have already mentioned this morning, the cost of heating oil for off-grid homes is a major concern. Will he give us more details of the domestic renewable heat incentive scheme, particularly in respect of domestic biomass boilers?

The domestic renewable heat incentive scheme is designed to drive forward the uptake of renewable heat technologies, such as biomass boilers. We published details of that scheme last July, and we intend it to be open for applications this spring. It is targeted at, but not limited to, homes that are off the gas grid, because those without mains gas have the most potential to save on fuel bills and to decrease their carbon emissions.

Surely one of the biggest problems for off-grid homes is that they are not even entitled to the protection of the fairly weak regulator, Ofgem. Regardless of who created what, will the Minister please tell us why oil customers are not entitled to this most basic of regulatory protections?

The new code that we have agreed with the industry gives those customers more protection than they have had in the past. We are looking at the operation of the code this winter, and we will review how effective it has been when we hold the next ministerial round table in May.