RHI delay a ‘missed opportunity’, says industry

Businesses have branded government plans to delay the second phase of the renewable heat incentive (RHI) a "missed opportunity" for the UK's carbon targets.

This follows an announcement made by DECC earlier this week (March 27) that it plans to delay RHI until 2013. Instead it said it is planning to launch a Renewable Heat Premium Payments (RHPP) scheme, which will give money to renewable heat technologies, from April 2 this year.

It also launched a consultation on the interim cost control for the RHI, including a proposal which gives government the power to suspend the scheme if it looks like it will exceed the annual budget. However, an additional £10m has been added to the RHPP making it worth a total of £25m.

According to climate change minister Greg Barker the increased funding will enable it to extend the RHPP to more communities, which can apply for grants to install renewable heating.

Mr Barker said: “The new Renewable Heat Premium Payment scheme will be bigger and better than the original.

“We’re increasing the budget from £15m to £25m, for the first time we’re including community schemes and there’ll be more social housing schemes that can benefit. Those people who are reliant on expensive oil or electric heating should consider applying to the Premium Payment scheme to cut their fuel bills in the long term.

“Generating heat from renewables will not just cut carbon emissions, it will also help create a market in developing, selling and installing kit like solar thermal panels or heat pumps.”

However, the Solar Trade Association (STA) chair Stuart Elmes expressed disappointment at the delay to the RHI, saying it is essential if the UK is to meet its carbon targets.

He said: “While we were expecting some delay to the RHI, a whole year is very disappointing for our solar thermal members”, adding that DECC has “put a lot more energy into supporting renewable electricity than renewable heat – but heat is half the problem if we are to meet our carbon targets. This unbalanced approach represents a missed opportunity”.

In addition, he said he isn’t convinced the extension of RHPP will work, warning the previous “incarnation of the RHPP was hopelessly undersubscribed. We are not convinced that this ‘bigger and better’ RHPP will be sufficient to spark increased uptake of solar heating technologies.”

As a result, the STA is calling on DECC to accelerate its timeline for RHI to help “unleash the potential of solar heating”.

Renewable energy supplier and installer Myriad CEG, agrees warning that if the proposal goes ahead it would put at risk “all the good work that has been done so far in getting the RHI off the ground”.

Myriad renewable energy solutions director Steve Roberts, said: “It seems bizarre for DECC to announce an emergency measure to suspend the RHI on the basis that the budget is at risk of being over spent, when and at the current rate of applications this is very unlikely to happen.

“All this will do is discourage already nervous clients from making a commitment to renewable heating systems.”

Carys Matthews

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