Adrian Lightwood, Registrations Director at OFTEC, says that a new, integrated off-grid market can ensure a secure future for liquid fuel installers.

Climate change is a critical challenge and, with the need to phase out fossil fuels, oil heating technicians may be among those questioning whether they will still have a career in 10 years’ time.

Major changes are undoubtedly required of all sectors if the UK is to meet its net-zero target by 2050, yet skilled oil installers, especially those with a willingness to learn, have nothing to fear.

OFTEC is working closely with government and wider industry to secure a fair, affordable, and practical transition to low carbon heat for all. Previous trials, backed up by new independent research, provide compelling evidence that the most cost-effective answer for existing oil heated homes lies in replacing kerosene with a low carbon liquid fuel alternative which can run on existing appliances with only minor modifications.

This also spells positive news for technicians. While the new fuels should be compatible with most existing appliances, as the drive to decarbonise intensifies, it will be desirable to upgrade older boilers and tanks at an accelerated pace, securing future work.

As the move to low carbon heat occurs over time, with an initial liquid biofuel blend expected to come on stream by the mid-2020s, OFTEC is well placed to ensure that its 9,500 registered technicians remain ahead of the game. 

Drawing on over 25 years’ industry experience, we will ensure that both OFTEC training courses and our well-recognised competent persons scheme (CPS) evolve alongside the carbon reduction agenda, providing technicians with the full support they need to seamlessly progress.

This process began back in 2016 when OFTEC started moving away from its traditional oil heating roots to offer registration services in solar thermal, biomass, and heat pump systems, and a joint Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS). 

Solar PV will be added to OFTEC’s offering next year, providing established technicians, as well as those starting a career in the industry, with a one stop shop for registration services, training, technical, and business support covering the whole off-grid heating market.

The government now plans to endorse a new quality mark assurance scheme for tradespeople, and is proposing that registration with TrustMark becomes mandatory for all those completing Energy Company Obligation (ECO3) work.

Maintaining high industry standards and providing consumers with peace of mind has always been at the heart of OFTEC’s work and, arguably, there could be a case for one overarching scheme. However, introducing another badge of professionalism across industry – when strong, established, and well-known schemes already exist – could simply confuse homeowners and those organisations commissioning ECO3 work who have come to recognise and rely on OFTEC-registered businesses as preferred suppliers. The move would also inflict a further and unnecessary level of bureaucracy and expense on technicians.

People’s homes come in all shapes and sizes, covering a diverse range of ages, design, and character, with varying levels of energy efficiency improvements from almost none to full insulation. This picture is particularly apparent across oil-heated housing stock, with 97% of homes falling into EPC bands D-G.

To fully support a progressive decarbonisation strategy, heating technicians of the future will need to be able to advise homeowners on the best possible solution for their property type and, if they want the work, be able to install and maintain the chosen system. 

Those who are fully competent across the full range of heating technologies available are the ones who will reap the business benefits of this new, wider market.

A fabric first approach will also form a crucial part of any successful policy (where practically and financially viable). Installers will therefore likely be required to take on a more collaborative role, working closely with insulation specialists to provide a ‘whole house’ solution which delivers the best carbon reduction results.

Amid an increasingly uncertain world where change is the only constant, oil heating technicians can at least rely on OFTEC to continue to provide advice and support as they navigate their future paths.