The domestic Renewable Heat Incentive has been eagerly awaited within the industry and I firmly believe that it will provide a substantial boost to the renewable heating market. The financial support given by the RHI will hopefully incentivise householders, private and social landlords to install renewable heating systems.
Heat pump systems have become more popular and the benefits of installing these systems more widely recognised. BSW has installed a significant number of air-source heat pump systems for Lewes District Council over the past year, providing residents with a sustainable, cost effective alternative to outdated storage heater systems. There have been many benefits, not limited only to reduced bills for the heating and hot water. I frequently receive comments praising the even temperature delivered across entire properties and the positive impact this has on home environments.
The fact is the greatest efficiency is achieved through design. As heat pump systems will receive a payment for the renewable heat generated only, this will encourage consumers and contractors to focus on installing high quality, higher efficiency systems to reduce running costs and increase the RHI payments.
In order to give confidence to the public, it is vital that the fewest barriers are put up when applying for RHI support. In my opinion, the main concern is the requirement for a Green Deal assessment to apply. This requirement may divide the industry.
While possibly helping some applicants with the upfront costs associated with installing eligible renewable systems, for the majority it will be seen as an additional cost and cause confusion for consumers by recommending other non-renewable heating upgrades. The soon to be phased out Renewable Heat Premium Payment experienced a significant drop in applications when the requirement was added in phase two; the concern is that it will have a similar effect on the RHI.
While I agree that the estimated energy requirement used to calculate the RHI payments needs to be independent, I question the validity of the proposals made by Green Deal assessors. I have seen many examples where a property is ideally suited for a heat pump installation, having all the necessary insulation in place, but the installation of a heat pump is not suggested. I can only assume that there is a lack of understanding of renewable heating systems among Green Deal assessors and that this is the reason all sorts of inappropriate and frankly confusing measures are advised.
Green Deal assessors need a greater awareness of the renewable heating technologies available and a better understanding of how to apply these within the domestic sector. Training assessors to understand the capabilities of heat pump systems will ensure that customers receive clear and consistent messaging backed up by the advice given from experienced contractors.
The renewable heating industry must maintain a high level of credibility and any measures designed to install confidence with the consumer should be explored and supported.
James Cordner is renewables manager at BSW Building Services