Red Diesel Ban: 2020 Budget
Posted on 20th October 2020
The UK government has proposed a red diesel ban from the 1st April 2022 for many sectors to help reduce the impact that fossil fuels have on the planet. So what will this mean for you? Will you be eligible for using red diesel from this date or will you have to instead use white diesel or green fuels like Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil?
Red diesel Budget 2020
The UK government announced at Budget 2020 that it will remove the entitlement to use red diesel for many sectors from the 1st April 2022. This will require many businesses to use fuel that is taxed at the standard rate for white diesel. The move is to encourage users to switch to more sustainable fuels; the more expensive diesel is, the greater the motivation to improve energy efficiency and opt for cleaner alternatives.
The sectors that will remain eligible to use red diesel are:
- Agriculture, horticulture, fish farming, forestry
- Non-commercial heating systems e.g. off-the-gird homes, places of worship and narrowboats
What is red diesel?
Red diesel (gas oil) is currently used by many industries such as construction and agriculture in off-road vehicles, equipment and machinery due to its low duty rate. It accounts for around 15% of diesel used in the UK and is responsible for around 14 million tonnes of CO2 released every year.
Although red diesel is a fossil fuel which releases a large number of greenhouse gas emissions when burnt, users currently only have to pay a duty rate of 11.14 pence per litre (ppl) which is considerably less than those using white diesel (57.95ppl), effectively giving it an 81% discount.
The current red diesel duty rate has been in place since 2010 as a result of a 10-year freeze on fuel duty. Fuel fraudsters often use red diesel in road-going vehicles in place of white diesel due to the duty difference. To help identify illegal use, red diesel has contained a red dye since 1961, to enable environmental agencies and HMRC to easily catch criminals in the act.
What sectors can currently use red diesel?
- Commercial and domestic heating users
- Stationary engines e.g. back-up generators
- Mobile machinery e.g. transport refrigeration units
- Boats and ships on inland waterways or at sea
- Construction machinery e.g. excavators and tractors
Why is the red diesel ban coming into place from April 2022?
The government acknowledges that the change in red diesel eligibility will be a challenge for many sectors, therefore it launched a consultation period from July 2020 to the 1st October 2020 to give red diesel users the opportunity to submit their opinions on the change in legislation.
Governing bodies will then evaluate the responses and consider any sectors that should retain their entitlement. HMRC are set to publish draft legislation for consultation in 2021.
Sectors with 100% relief on fuel duty
The red diesel ban will not alter any existing fuel duty reliefs which give sectors 100% relief on fuel duty, even those sectors which will no longer be permitted to use red diesel. For example, commercial boats such as ferries and fishing boats operating at sea or within the limits of a port will remain entitled to the Marine Voyages Relief.
The General Lighthouse Authorities and Royal National Lifeboat Institution will continue to benefit from full relief duty even when switching to white diesel from April 2022. However, they will have to pay the standard 20% VAT that applies to diesel, rather than the reduced 5% rate of VAT that up to 2,300 litres of red diesel is subject to.
Red diesel in private pleasure craft
Private pleasure craft can currently use red diesel for propulsion and non-propulsion use, but they must pay white diesel rates on the fuel used for propulsion.
However, at Budget 2020, the government announced that it will allow the legislation in the Finance Bill 2020 to ban red diesel in propel private pleasure craft. While the specifics have not yet been finalised, the move is to achieve consistency with the 2018 judgement by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and ensure that the UK meets global requirements.
Once employed, private pleasure craft users must use white diesel for propulsion. The government has been consulting with users to understand how they will implement the changes and is yet to announce when this will come into force for private pleasure craft.
Private pleasure craft will still be allowed to use red diesel for non-propulsion uses, for example for heating, lighting and to power appliances. However, if only one fuel tank is on board, you must use white diesel for both propulsion and non-propulsion.
Challenges of the red diesel ban
The sectors that are projected to lose their red diesel entitlement can switch to white diesel, but the dye used in red diesel is designed to remain in fuel tanks and pipework. This could potentially cause the authorities to assume that anyone who has legally purchased white diesel has illegally used red diesel in the past.
The government doesn’t require red diesel users to flush out tanks in their vehicles/machinery due to the high cost incurred. This is also to avoid environmental damage from leaks and unsafe disposal of red diesel.
Fuel suppliers are however, being asked to replace fuel tanks or flush out tanks and pumps ahead of the red diesel tax changes to ensure no trace of red diesel remains when supplying white diesel. Fuel suppliers will have to police the use of red diesel going forward and ensure that all fuel supplied to a sector losing entitlement burns all low tax diesel before this date.
To endorse the growth of alternative diesel sources, the cost of renewable fuels such as Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) must be reduced to reduce the current price barriers and ensure uptake.
HVO fuel: a drop-in diesel alternative
HVO fuel is an advanced renewable fuel made from 100% renewable materials that reduces net greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90%. It’s a pure paraffinic hydrocarbon that doesn’t contain the aromatic compounds that are present in fossil diesel. Adhering to both the EN 15940 and ASTM D975 specifications, accepted by the Road Transport Fuel Obligation and certified by the ISCC, HVO fuel can be used as a drop-in replacement for white and red diesel with no changes required to the engine or operational infrastructure.
As well as its drop-in functionality, HVO offers greatly extended storage and does not face the stability issues that diesel has. This makes the advanced renewable fuel a great choice for use in back-up generators.
Source: Gov UK
Information accurate at the time of writing (20th October 2020).