HVO given green light for propulsion on inland waterways

Working group drive positive action for rivers, lakes and canals.
03 Jan 24
A narrowboat is travelling along a canal. Cyclists are riding along the towpath.

Last year, the RYA, alongside the Inland Waterways Association (IWA) and the Cruising Association (CA) came together to form the HVO Joint Working Group. The Group promoted the use of sustainably produced Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) to Government as an interim decarbonisation solution for recreational boats with diesel engines. HVO forms a crucial part of the RYA’s Carbon Pathway to Zero and the IWA’s Sustainable Propulsion Vision, as it supports a gradual transition to electric propulsion for boats that typically last many decades.

In November, representatives from each organisation met alongside Crown Oil, who distribute HVO in the UK, and the Department for Transport (DfT). The complexities of the support mechanisms for sustainable biofuels have previously meant that distributors were reluctant to supply the recreational boating market. Currently, regulations focus on the use of fuel for propulsion alone. The key issue for inland boaters being that it is often used for both propulsion and heating. 

Following the meeting, the DfT declared to the HVO supply industry that it will allow them to supply inland waterways vessels with HVO without violating excise regulations. This will open up supply to inland recreational boaters as they will not have to establish what proportions of the fuel will be used for domestic and propulsion purposes on the vessel. The implications for both boaters and the climate are positive. There are remaining issues of price and availability, but there will now be a regulatory regime that supports the change.

The working group will continue to engage with the Government to make HVO affordable and available to both coastal and inland boaters. The advantages of HVO go beyond its approximately 90% reduction in carbon emissions as HVO does not suffer from diesel bug or common storage issues. 

Phil Horton, RYA Environmental and Sustainability Manager, said: “We are delighted that the Department for Transport has recognised the positive environmental impact that switching to sustainably sourced HVO could potentially have on our inland waterways. We have heard the frustration first-hand from inland boaters who wish to significantly reduce their carbon footprint, and this is now another way to support that ambition.”

“The RYA will continue to play an active role in the HVO Joint Working Group, and we look forward to working with the Government on the implementation of this change.”

Further information

If you're interested in learning how to reduce the environmental impact of your boat, visit the RYA's dedicated environmental website, The Green Blue

For further information on how the RYA is reducing its carbon footprint, visit the Environment and Sustainability hub page.