Householders across the UK are being offered grants of up to £1,250 towards the cost of installing renewable heating systems such as biomass boilers, air and ground source heat pumps and solar thermal panels.
This week the government unveiled a £15m Renewable Heat Premium Payment scheme which will open for applications on 1 August and run until March next year. The aim is to support up to 25,000 installations, with the money doled out on a first-come basis.
The scheme is mostly aimed at the 4m households in rural areas that are not connected to the mains gas network, and have to rely on more expensive heating such as that from domestic heating oil. The scheme is the precursor to the long-delayed Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) which will eventually reward those installing these measures with payments similar to the feed-in tariffs that have been so successful in encouraging the take-up of solar PV.
But questions remain as to whether consumers should buy the technology until the government has revealed the exact RHI payments, and who will qualify. Few will want to invest the £6,500-£11,500 it costs to install a biomass boiler which typically burns wood pellets, only to find they won’t be eligible for payments that could be worth several hundred pounds a year when the RHI scheme finally comes into force next year.
The government says Premium Payment scheme will be run by the Energy Saving Trust and the following payments will be available:
Ground Source Heat Pump £1,250 grant (for homes without mains gas heating).
Biomass boiler £950 grant (for homes without mains gas heating).
Air source heat pump £850 grant (for homes without mains gas heating).
Solar thermal hot water panels £300 grant (available to all homes regardless of the type of heating system).
Participants will be asked to provide detailed feedback on their experience through a set of surveys. This will allow the government to gather information to better understand renewable heat technologies. It is hoped the study will provide detailed information against which the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) can compare manufacturers’ and installers’ claims about performance.
Climate change minister Greg Barker said: “Today starts a new era in home heating because we’re making it more economical for people to go green by providing discounts off the cost of eco heaters. This should be great news for people who are reliant on expensive oil or electric heating as the Premium Payment scheme is really aimed at them.”
Philip Sellwood, chief executive of the Energy Saving Trust, says early field trials have shown high levels of householder satisfaction. “When people have the kit installed in their homes they really see the benefit. Of course there is still more to be learnt about how to get the most out of the technologies but the more they’re out there in people’s homes, the more they become part of daily life. Without a doubt, the main barrier that prevents people from taking the plunge is the up-front capital cost. This is a great start in overcoming this obstacle.”
However, campaigners for the renewable sector have questioned whether the grants will be enough to get consumers to commit.
Cathy Debenham, founder of the YouGen website, says: “The government still hasn’t announced what rates will be available for the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive, and what the eligibility criteria are. Without this information, investment in renewable heat is still prohibitively expensive for most people. Unless people know the long-term financial implications of investment, these relatively small grants aren’t likely to be enough to persuade them to take an expensive gamble.”
Alan Simpson, former minister and current adviser to Friends of the Earth on renewables, says the latest move is further proof the government doesn’t know what it’s doing in this area. He described it as “a classic Decc mess”.
A spokeswoman for Decc says the plan is that people installing kit under the Premium Payment scheme should receive support through the Renewable Heat Incentive, providing they meet the eligibility criteria of the scheme. However, she admitted it was not guaranteed.
For more information on the Renewable Heat Premium Payment plan, call 0800 512 012 or visit energysavingtrust.org.uk/rhpp. Decc says the Renewable Heat Incentive will open for applications from 30 September. It will be administered by Ofgem E-Serve. Those interested in finding out information ahead of being able to apply in September can contact Ofgem E-Serve from on 0845 200 2122 or by visiting www.ofgem.gov.uk/rhi.
Source: The Guardian