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Will legislation provide boost for renewables?

The Department of Energy and Climate Charge’s decision to open the RHI for applications earlier this year was welcomed by the industry but only time will tell whether this will give the renewables market the lift it so badly needs.

Although we may have known the tariffs set by the RHI for some time prior to its launch, the fact that the scheme was finally opened gave us some degree of assurance that the government is willing to promote growth in the renewables market.

In the run-up to the launch the industry had lots of time to prepare for the introduction of the domestic RHI. From a manufacturer’s perspective, the transition towards a more sustainable provision of heating and hot water systems formed a key part of product development. In theory we should now start to see the adoption of more sustainable products by homeowners as awareness of technologies increases.

However, despite the initial hype, the take-up appears to be much lower than originally anticipated. Before the launch of the RHI, DECC estimated there would be around 35,000 installations in 2014-2015.  In reality, 100 days since the RHI was launched only 1,933 installations had taken place and 93% of those were so-called legacy ones, meaning the installation had taken place before the scheme was introduced.

Like the RHI, the Green Deal was another scheme to become victim to lack of interest before it was fully implemented.

Similarly to the Green Deal and RHI, the FiT policy has also been met with some resistance. While we are not directly involved in the solar panel PV market we have noticed there hasn’t been the impact they probably wanted on the whole industry.

While we never expected to see huge levels of take-up immediately for any renewables scheme, the process does seem to be slower than even the most pessimistic of industry commentators would have thought. In fact, the dwindling numbers seems to suggest the renewables market either isn’t something the average heating installer is interested in being part of or is simply too different for them to access at the moment.

It seems the government has a habit of taking one step forward and two steps back when it comes to energy policies. Once a new strategy is implemented, panic occurs about the lack of take-up and they feel the need to quickly change it. One might be tempted to go so far as saying they are in election mode and not fully committing to one policy for fear of losing key voters. Consequently, there needs to be a greater level of commitment to such schemes before we can expect to see significant changes.

While there are some ongoing doubts over the management of all schemes, there is still the potential to transform the way UK homeowners heat their properties. Only time will tell whether the RHI will give the renewables industry the boost it really needs, but this was always likely to be a slow-burning scheme which requires patience and understanding before any notable progress can be made.

Ultimately, the key to any successful government scheme is the installer and at present they appear to have been marginalised the most.

Neil Schofield is head of external and government affairs at Worcester, Bosch Group

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