Being grateful for small mercies

Posted:  March 23rd, 2011 by:  The Environment Site comments:  0

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) has received a less than ecstatic welcome from many quarters – the tariffs are widely regarded as too small to deliver the dramatic market shift the Government is looking for.

Come on – let’s get real for a minute.

Look at what has just happened to Feed-in Tariffs. The sound of squealing brakes is almost deafening as PV projects over 50kW are being pulled up short. Small residential projects are unaffected, but the big investments were pouring into solar farms and large ‘rent your roof’ schemes, suddenly, sustainability doesn’t look quite so appealing to the financial sector.

The FiTs powering large PV projects were offering an annual return of over 10 per cent – it looked to good to be true and it was. It is not hard to see why venture capitalists were pouring into this market and why they are now turning tail and stampeding back out again. This is all to do with economics and nothing to do with saving the planet – we need to be clear about this.

And, against that backdrop, take a look at the RHI. The Government needs to cut the deficit; there is nothing left in the public coffers and, yet, it is proposing to spend £860m of public money to try and create a £4.5bn market in solar thermal, biomass and heat pumps.

We should be grateful for small mercies and we also need to respond. Air source heat pumps are not included in the first round of RHI tariffs, but that is only because a perfectly good technology has not been delivering on its promise. Only 13 per cent of the systems trialled by the Energy Saving Trust matched expectations – due partly to poor commissioning; incorrect sizing; bad installation and confused user operation.

If we can get this sort of thing right, the RHI offers a huge opportunity for our sector. Let’s take the carrot, say ‘thank you’ and make it work for us, our businesses and our customers.

For full details of the RHI click here.

David Frise is head of sustainability at the HVCA whose members are committed to delivering high quality, responsible and sustainable building services solutions.



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