RURAL households in Dorset could be hit with large costs in order to reduce emissions, it is warned.

OFTEC, the Oil Firing Technical Association, has raised concerns that plans being considered by the government to phase out fossil fuel heating systems in the 2020s.

The concerns include a fear that Dorset's 18,000 oil heated homes – as well as those beyond the county – could be forced to instal electric heating systems called heat pumps at considerable cost.

On top of this OFTEC says that these pumps work well in well-insulated homes, but many Dorset households may be forced to spend even more to better insulate rural homes, many of which are far less energy efficient. OFTEC says this could potentially push some households into debt.

OFTEC CEO Paul Rose said: "We firmly support plans to decarbonise home heating, but government’s current thinking is concerning. While policy decisions have yet to be made, heat pumps are the indicated preference - but this could cause major problems for cash-strapped rural households.

"Over 95 per cent of oil heated homes in Great Britain fall into EPC bands D to G – meaning they are poorly insulated and so unsuited for heat pumps without costly insulation work.

"Financial support to help the poorest families switch heating systems would most likely be made available but many households will be expected to fund the work themselves. The vast majority just won’t be able to do this."

OFTEC suggests a solution involving low carbon liquid biofuels for such homes.

Mr Rose said: "Our industry is working on a sustainable low carbon liquid fuel solution which will offer a far more practical solution which we think homeowners would embrace, due to much lower costs and minimal disruption to their properties. Yet so far, government has given this route little consideration.

"Introducing policy which isn’t fit for purpose could have severe consequences. The impact on consumers must be central to discussions on the future of heating, and cost and disruption minimised if support for climate change action is to be forthcoming."