Green heat technologies more affordable with RHI upgrade

Businesses across the country are being offered 'greater choice than ever before' on how to sustainably meet their heating requirements as long-awaited improvements to the world's first Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme come into force today (28 May).

The non-domestic RHI pays firms for every unit (kWh) of useful heat produced using eligible renewable technologies. Changes to the scheme (listed below) are the result of close co-operation between industry and Government, and have been welcomed by the Renewable Energy Association (REA) and affiliated trade bodies.

“The RHI is now a truly world-leading renewable energy policy,” said the REA’s chief executive Dr Nina Skorupska. “Almost all renewable heat applications are now supported under the scheme, offering businesses greater choice than ever before on how to sustainably meet their heating needs.

“Local authorities and housing associations can also benefit from the expanded support for technologies that can feed district heating schemes, such as biomass, geothermal and energy from waste.”

Key changes to the scheme

Increased support for: –

  • Large biomass heat projects 
  • Deep geothermal heating 
  • Ground source heat pumps 
  • Solar heating 

New support for: –

  • Air source heat pumps 
  • Biomass combined heat and power (CHP) 
  • On-site combustion of biogas from anaerobic digestion at all scales (previously limited to less than 200kW) 
  • Waste-based heating projects using commercial and industrial waste as well as municipal solid waste 

The STA provided evidence to Government in support of increasing the ‘value for money cap’ for renewable energy support programmes, which has enabled support for solar water heating to increase to 10p/kWh.

Stuart Elmes, chair of the STA Solar Thermal Working Group, said: “The extra support for solar heating means that the economics will now stack up for more projects. More swimming pools, sports centres, food factories and hospitals will now be able to afford year-round heating from the sun.

“We have also proposed that future improvements should include front-loading RHI payments for solar into the first seven years, as with the domestic scheme, to help businesses get over payback hurdles.”

Support for large biomass heat has doubled, but this technology sub-sector still draws the lowest fixed level of subsidy of any low carbon technology.

Wood Heat Association

The newly formed Wood Heat Association (WHA) announced its affiliation to the REA last week. Speaking of these changes to the RHI, the WHA’s interim chairman Julian Morgan-Jones said: “Under the previous cost-control mechanisms, wood heat was being unnecessarily constrained in order to preserve head room in the budget for heat pumps that was clearly not going to be used.

“The revised cost control mechanisms more closely match real world deployment and will ensure that wood heat can maximise its contribution to cost-effective emissions savings and renewable energy targets.”

The RHI counts towards the UK’s 2020 renewable energy target and helps reduce the UK’s dependence on polluting fossil fuels. The above changes come into effect today (28 May).

Luke Nicholls

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