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Renewable heat incentive to boost ‘financially attractive’ alternatives to oil



Homeowners could receive financial incentives for using renewable heat in their homes, after the government has launched a new scheme. The renewable heat incentive (RHI) is the first of its kind in the world but has faced repeated delays.

The scheme aims to provide long-term financial support for renewable heat by offering homeowners payments to offset the cost of installing low-carbon systems on their properties. The government says it will bridge the gap between the cost of fossil fuel heat sources and renewable heat alternatives. The guaranteed payments will be made quarterly over a seven-year period.

Four technologies – biomass heating systems, ground or water source heat pumps, air to water heat pumps and solar thermal panels – are currently covered by the scheme, which was meant to launch in 2012. The RHI is open to homeowners and landlords as well as households both on and off the gas grid.

Energy minister Greg Barker said, “This is the first scheme of its kind in the world – showing yet again that the UK is leading the way in the clean energy sector.

“Not only will people have warmer homes and cheaper fuel bills, they will reduce their carbon emissions, and will also get cash payments for installing these new technologies.”

The trade body the Renewable Energy Association (REA) has welcomed the incentive, but the organisation urged consumer considering using the scheme to thoroughly research the technologies.

Chief executive Nina Skorupska commented, “[The] launch is a major milestone for the government’s green policy record. Households off the gas grid now have a financially attractive clean energy alternative to oil and electric heating.

“Already over half a million people have installed solar power in their home to cut their costs and carbon emissions. Now millions more can do the same with solar hot water, wood fuel heating and heat pumps.”

The UK Green Building Council noted that the scheme could work with other incentives, such as the green deal, to create more efficient homes that are cheaper to run.

Meanwhile Andy Deacon, director of development at the Energy Saving Trust, said, “With rising energy bills and worries about energy security, there needs to be a major transformation in the way we heat our homes.”

He added that the RHI was helping to “make this a reality” whilst achieving financial and carbon savings.

The Solar Trade Association (STA) said the scheme means that solar thermal is now as good an investment as solar power for families. The organisation added that solar thermal systems should last more than 25 years, meaning systems will continue to save energy and money after the government’s incentive ends.

Photo: Department of Energy & Climate Change

Further reading:

Government poll: 77% of Britons support renewable energy

Renewable electricity share at 15% in 2013 as UK emissions fall 2%

Green Investment Bank announces £11m investment in biomass plant

Government’s biomass sustainability criteria sparks debate among green groups

Renewable heat scheme to reduce emissions