Breaking News: The Renewable Heat Incentive Reforms

Heat Pumps

Decarbonising the UK’s heating has become an increasingly important issue in recent times. We have an obligation to reduce our carbon emissions dramatically in accordance with the Paris climate agreement by 2050.

A large proportion of our emissions comes from both domestic and commercial heating and cutting this is going to be one of our major challenges over the next couple of decades.

The Renewable Heat Incentive was introduced to encourage homes and businesses to turn to lower carbon solutions such as heat pumps, solar thermal and biomass boilers. While the number of units installed went over 50,000 this year, take up of these technologies has been less vigorous than many eco-advocates would have hoped for.
In March this year, the Government began a consultation and rumours that subsidies would be improved began to circulate. This month, they published The Renewable Heat Incentive: A Reformed Scheme in response to the consultation. It’s good news for those hoping to decarbonise their own heating and get a decent return on investment.
According to the Minister of State for Energy and Intellectual Property, Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe:

“Heat is very difficult to decarbonise and no consensus is yet reached on the mix needed for the long term and you will have seen that from the various different reports on the subject. We need to be clear on the challenges, clear on the things we start to make progress on now and we need to agree on a long-term direction.”

Highlights of the RHI Reform

From spring 2017 there will be a number of changes to both the domestic and non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive.

Domestic RHI:

• All four technologies, air and ground source heat pumps, solar thermal and biomass will continue to be supported by the RHI.
• Heat pumps will have their tariffs increased. Air source heat pumps will be at 10.02 p/kWh and ground source 19.55 p/kWh.
• All new heat pumps will require electric metering and there are some restrictions on those installations with a shared ground loop.
• New biomass installations will be able to access a higher tariff of 6.44 p/kWh.
• Heat demand limits are going to be introduced for ASHPs, GSHPs and biomass heaters but not for solar thermal.
• The solar thermal tariff will remain the same. This is good news for the solar industry as there were rumours that thermal was going to be removed altogether.

Non-Domestic RHI:

• The Government is introducing tariff guarantees to create certainty in the market for larger installations and to encourage businesses to take them up.
• The three tariff bands for biomass will be replaced with a single one with two tiers. Tier 1 is 2.91 p/kWh and Tier 2 is 2.05 p/kWh.
• Tariffs for ASHPs and GSHPs will remain the same.
• Biogas and solar thermal tariffs will remain at the same level.
• New biogas or biomethane plants will only get support when 50% of the generated heat is from waste or residue feedstock.
• Deep geothermal plants will continue to get support with a tariff of 5.14 p/kWh.

You can read the full response to the RHI consultation here.
The Benefits of the RHI Reforms

There are three main reasons for the changes in the RHI:

• First to all, the Government are hoping that in encourages more take up of the four main technologies in both domestic and non-domestic situations.
• It’s going to offer better value to customers and give them greater confidence in the new technologies.
• Finally, it’s going to help develop the market and improve the supply chain, further bringing costs down and creating a good return on investment for consumers in the future.

Whether these changes have the impact that the Government hopes remains to be seen. Having said that, 2017 could well be the time for your home or business to look at how heat pumps, biomass and solar thermal can earn you money back and bring a good return on investment.

Find out more about the benefits of RHI technology:
Heat Pumps
Solar Thermal
Biomass Boilers

Solar Roads Come to the UK in 2017

HIGHWAY

The idea of turning our roads into solar powerhouses isn’t new. We reported back in 2014 about an American couple who had crowdfunded some $2 million to develop the idea. While it was treated with a certain amount of scepticism back then, the notion of using our streets and roads has gained traction in more recent times.
In truth, our road system is the perfect, readymade infrastructure for installing solar if you think about it. All we have to do is create panels that are sturdy enough to handle heavy traffic. That’s the big challenge and one which has taken a while to figure out.
Now, however, solar roads are coming the UK courtesy of French company Colas which is a subsidiary of engineering outfit Bouygues. Three sites have been chosen to ‘test-drive’ the new roadways, with Cambridge top of the list.
According to the company, the new ultra-thin solar panels are coated with a special resin that prevents cars slipping on them and protects the solar cells underneath. Just 12 feet of panelling could provide enough power for one home and the company believes that 30,000 metres can deliver the electricity for up to 5,000 properties, including businesses.

We may in the future find these new solar road panels used in areas such as carparks and cycle ways as well as main roads. If successful, road solar could potentially become more popular than solar farms and a lot more efficient. The tech, of course, is going to be quite expensive at first. Estimates are that it will cost up to £2,000 per square metre but this will certainly come down as the systems develop.

What is Wattway?

Developed by Colas, Wattway is the patented version of the solar road. It’s taken five years of hard research in association with the National Institute for Solar Energy in France. If it takes off, all places will be able to access clean, renewable energy at the roadside. This could have the potential to radically change how we look at solar energy provision. We may not need panels on our roofs or large solar farms but can have it supplied through our roads.

The hurdles Colas has had to overcome have included making a material that can take a large amount of impact, not only from traffic or footfall but also extreme weather. If successful and cost effective this would be a great solution for towns and cities as well as for off grid areas where the panels could be laid down and provide power to remote communities.
According to Highways Magazine recently:

“Each solar panel is comprised of an array of 15-cm wide cells making up a very thin film of polycrystalline silicon that transforms solar energy into electricity. These extremely fragile photovoltaic cells are coated in a multilayer substrate composed of resins and polymers, translucent enough to allow sunlight to pass through, and resistant enough to withstand even large vehicle traffic.”

Before you get too excited about seeing solar roads in the immediate future, there is still some way to go before the technology reaches the point where it is commercially viable. Much will depend on the trials going on in France and those being planned across 100 sites worldwide. Green advocates will be watching closely to see how much power these panels deliver to a local area. Crucial will be this quality of energy production but also the level of maintenance required to service and repair areas that are damaged.

Don’t be surprised, though, if you see workmen in future laying down solar panels rather than spreading tar across your local highway.