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How the RHI helps housing associations

As more success stories emerge, it will be seen as a more viable solution: the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is an excellent opportunity for housing associations to implement cost-effective, energy-efficient and high-performance heating.

Renewable heat sources have the potential to eradicate the frankly unacceptable levels of “heat poverty” that are reported each year – particularly in off-grid communities that suffer so much during winter, both financially and in heating performance.

We recently saw details of an encouraging heating refurbishment at a Northampton social housing estate that implemented air-to-water heat pumps – a cost-effective and energy-efficient solution for residents from day to day, with the bonus of installation costs being offset by the RHI.

Some residents from that project have already reported monthly fuel savings in excess of 50% when compared with their dated storage heaters.

Thirty-eight heat pumps were installed over a relatively short six-week period to minimise disruption, and it is estimated that the investing social housing provider, emh homes, will receive approximately 75% of its £304,000 installation costs back within seven years simply by meeting the RHI scheme qualifying criteria.

These are the kind of examples that need greater exposure; the kind that can genuinely demonstrate the advantages for both housing associations and their residents alike.

On a grander scale, research from the Energy Saving Trust Scotland has estimated that Scottish households could save approximately £151m every year by installing renewable heating systems – this is a region that in 2013 was estimated to have one household in three a victim of fuel poverty.

Associations may feel that committing to renewable heating technologies such as air-to-water heat pumps requires an expensive solution to effectively distribute the energy. It may be assumed that underfloor heating is the only means of achieving this.

Efficient means of heat distribution can really help housing associations to get better returns on investment, particularly through the RHI tariffs that can supplement the subsidising of installation costs.

Having MCS certified installers promoting RHI benefits “on the front line”, so to speak, can surely sway decision makers towards the most sustainable, affordable solution.

The more we, as an industry, can assist the government in demonstrating the value of the RHI, the more likely it is that we will influence a greater uptake.

In preventing fuel poverty and significantly reducing CO2 emissions, using the RHI is surely the logical step moving forwards for every housing association.

Phil Marris is managing director at Jaga Heating Products UK

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