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Is the Government serious about RHI?

The extension of the RHI, which commercial customers have been enjoying since November 2011, will mean householders and landlords receive a tariff-based subsidy.

Tariffs have been set at 7.3p/kWh for air source heat pumps, 12.2p/kWh for biomass boilers, 18.8p/kWh for ground source heat pumps and at least 19.2p/kWh for solar thermal. On the face of it, this sounds good, but when you read the details, ‘air source heat pumps’ do not include air to air heat pumps; so the most efficient heating system available, and one of the simplest to fit, is not part of the scheme.

Housing is hugely important with a great deal of potential, not just in the private sector but also in the social housing sector, where councils and housing associations can make a big difference to the government’s carbon target by converting their estates or ensuring new developments use renewable energy.

The importance of the domestic sector to the government’s target is underlined by UK Energy In Brief 2012, a National Statistics Publication, which showed about 28 per cent of all energy in the country is consumed by the domestic sector and just over a third of all electricity.

About 60 per cent of energy used in UK homes is for heating, and a further 24 per cent is for the provision of hot water. So it makes most sense to concentrate spending on these two areas. The most efficient form of electric powered heating is the heat pump, for both space heating and the provision of hot water. The accepted formula for coefficient of performance for heat pumps results in 3 to 5kW of heat produced from every 1kW of electricity used.

Missing out air-to-air is a major omission. Secondly, it is not intended to come into force until spring 2014, with rumours this date may also be put back.

Thirdly, there are questions about whether there is an adequate amount of money being set aside for the domestic version of RHI. The chancellor’s last Comprehensive Spending Review revealed that provision for the whole RHI, including the domestic sector, will only be £6m more than the £430m allowed for the commercial sector.

We all realise we are in a time of squeezed government spending, but the promotion of heat pumps for domestic heating and hot water will have the triple effect of helping the environment, boosting business and reducing energy costs for households.

Julian Brunnock is sales and marketing director of FG Eurofred, the face of Fujitsu in the UK

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