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Blowing hot and cold about the government’s renewables plans

So the government has finally decided what it is going to do to with the Renewable Heat Incentive. True to form when it comes to green legislation, the final decision appears to be short on logic

It inevitably has left people reading between the lines, scenting a conspiracy. I speak of course the absence of the Air Source Heat Pump from the full RHI scheme.

The government’s reason that the most ubiquitous heat pump technology has been left out in the cold is because of question marks over the technology, largely because they are not sure how best to measure the heat benefits. Basically they are punishing the ASHP industry for the prevalence of CopWash – that ability to cook the books to produce inflated Coefficients of Performance. But of course the real reason, the people in the business of selling ASHP whisper, is because the technology has proved far more popular with manufacturers than the government projected and so they just don’t have enough money in the RHI budget to support them all.

It is a body blow to the ASHP sector, many of whom were banking on the incentive from RHI to help convince commercial clients that the technology is a better option that sooty old biomass.

But we must take a more optimistic tack with this technology. There may be marginally less financial incentive to install  ASHPs, but there are plenty of carbon benefits that can be achieved with their specification and that is what is going to drive many a planner and Carbon Reduction Commitment-focused client. Financial incentives aren’t everything, as everyone who has dealt with Enhanced Capital Allowance scheme will testify.

I have said it before, the unique benefit of the heat pump is its ability to cool as well. If the government had the gumption to provide an incentive for cooling from a renewable source, imagine the change that could come.

As one eminent renewables specialist said at Ecobuild: How can it be morally right in a society where the inhabitants need to live and work in relative comfort for heating to be judged good and cooling bad?

It is time for the government to stop blowing hot and cold -  leave that to the heat pumps.

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