6 August 2013

Domestic RHI to boost the uptake of renewables in the UK

How will the introduction of a domestic renewable heat incentive help the UK to meet its renewable energy strategy targets?

The UK is committed to generating 15% of its energy mix from renewables by 2020; the expectation published in the Renewable Energy Strategy in 2009 was for over 30% of power, 12% of heat and 10% of transport fuels to be derived from renewables to deliver the UKs overall 2020 target.

Since 2002 renewable power generation has been supported by the Renewables Obligation (RO) and more latterly, since April 2010, also the Feed in Tariff (FIT) which is focussed on smaller-scale ([5MWe) power projects; the RTFO has supported renewable transport fuels since 2008; but no incentive has been in place for renewable heat.
As the Government set out in the Carbon Plan published in December 2011, meeting the UK’s goal of reducing emissions by 80% by 2050 relative to a 1990 baseline is likely to require reducing emissions from buildings to near zero by 2050, and up to a 70% reduction in emissions from industry – the majority of which are heat-related. Generating heat causes around a third of UK greenhouse gas emissions.

In November 2011 the Renewable Heat Incentive was launched as the world’s first heat support scheme, but only for non-domestic installations; even though domestic heating accounts for around 28% of UK energy demand. Over three quarters (79%) of the energy we use in our homes is for space and hot water heating, most of which is met using gas-fired boilers (81%). On 12th July 2013 DECC announced the details of a domestic scheme, to support households making the switch from fossil- to renewable-heating systems.

Although the domestic-RHI opens for business in spring 2014, the financial stimulus is unlikely to deliver the required results due to other non-financial barriers. Biomass for heating in particular continues to face awareness issues, making it difficult to secure funds to install such systems or for home- and business-owners to feel comfortable with the biomass-fuel supply and handling systems. As part of DECCs consultation, 24% of respondents had heard of biomass and know what it is, 23% had heard of it but didn’t know anything about it, and an astonishing 53% had still never heard of it.

A wealth of opportunity exists for UK plc in biomass heating, but without a parallel education programme or until biomass is treated as a mainstream option continuously quoted alongside solar or heat pumps, uptake is likely to remain slow. Local supply chains can be built, local jobs created and wealth retained within the local economy through improved woodland management or production of energy crops, primary processing and sustainable supply chain management.

Source: NNFCC, press release, 2013-08-06.

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