12 Jul 2023

Bringing renewable solutions to the UK: why we need “more of everything”

Sophia Haywood, Head of Advocacy and Communications at Dimeta explores how having a multi-solution approach to net-zero policy encourages the deployment and development of domestic renewable fuel production, delivering a just transition for all parts of society. 

Taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach to many aspects of life doesn’t work. The energy industry is no exception. Picking winners stifles innovation and competitiveness in renewable technologies at a time when the UK needs ‘more of everything’. 
In the UK, there are over 2m rural off-grid homes and businesses which need a just transition to net zero. For many of these applications, hydrogen and electrification will not be suitable due to geographical, technical and affordability reasons. There is a clear need for alternative solutions. To address this, the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) industry is transitioning to renewable liquid gases, such as bioLPG and renewable and recycled carbon dimethyl ether (DME), ensuring that LPG boilers offer a long-term, cost-effective pathway to net-zero. 

First-of-a-kind waste-to-DME plant 

Dutch-based Dimeta, a renewable fuel producer, recently announced plans to build a first-of-a-kind £150m renewable and recycled carbon DME production plant in Teesside, the first of up to six plants the company is establishing across Europe and North America. 
The first plant developed through Circular Fuels Ltd will be operational from 2027, taking approximately 220 kilotonnes of waste and converting it into 50,000 tonnes of DME – the equivalent of 25% of the UK’s LPG domestic heating market. The construction will create 250 jobs and, once operational, 50 local jobs. 
However, the industry needs a clear and stable policy environment to support project development and investment. Without this, the UK will be held back from realising the carbon reduction outcomes it so clearly wants to see. 

Recognise the role of renewable liquid gases 

Ensuring a level playing field for renewable fuel production is critical. At present, many funding schemes and policies are not technology-neutral – they generally focus around hydrogen, heat networks or electrification. This limits innovation and development of solutions which are needed for off-grid homes, businesses and industries, where these solutions will not be possible. 
Taking a technology-neutral approach and recognising the crucial role of renewable liquid gases, including DME, in the upcoming Low Carbon Fuels Strategy and Biomass Strategy would enable the sector to accelerate its transition to net zero and ensure that rural communities are not left behind. 

Don’t force a ‘one size fits all’ approach on rural homes and businesses from 2026 

The current government strategy for decarbonising off-grid heating is a ‘one size fits all’ electrification approach, which isn’t fit for purpose. The ‘off-gas grid regulations’ under consultation would see rural homes and businesses having little choice but to install a heat pump if their heating system fails after 2026. It does not consider the needs of rural consumers, or the complexity of heating rural properties, often due to their age, fabric or heat demand. 
To recognise that we need alternative solutions and “more of everything” is not a weakness or failure – it is reality. Without a doubt, electrification and hydrogen are going to play a key role in decarbonising the economy, but neither are silver bullets. The UK needs alternative solutions, such as renewable liquid gas, as part of a suite of technologies to deliver a just transition for the whole of the UK. 

This article was originally published in The Path to Net Zero, a special report to mark Net Zero Week 2023.