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Got a story? Ring us on 01732 748041 or e-mail twood@unity-media.com RENEWABLEENERGIES Renewable heat: life beyond the RHI Robin Adderley, sales and marketing director at NIBE, considers the impact of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) on today’s renewable heating market and explores the other factors that will help set the industry up for long-term success... When the government finally confirmed its ongoing commitment to the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) in November 2015, the renewables industry breathed a collective sigh of relief. The Autumn Statement saw Chancellor George Osborne pledge £1.15 billion in annual funding for the scheme by 2020/21, which provided much-needed certainty that it will continue for at least the next few years. Since the non-domestic scheme was introduced in 2011, followed by the launch of its domestic counterpart in 2014, the RHI has taken centre stage in the UK’s quest to roll out renewable heat. The promise of almost immediate financial rewards is understandably a big draw for homeowners and businesses alike – and as such, the RHI has been the main catalyst behind uptake of renewable heating technologies to date. Although it’s great news that we finally have concrete assurance that the RHI is sticking around, now isn’t the time for complacency. The scheme is undeniably a positive short-term driver, but it is just that: short-term. By focusing too much of our efforts on just one piece of the jigsaw, we as an industry risk eclipsing the wider discussion about renewables and their lasting benefits. Instead, we should be laying the foundations for a strong market that can thrive with or without the support of short-term incentives. But what do installers, manufacturers and other key industry stakeholders need to do to make this a reality? THE BIGGER PICTURE The first step is an attitude shift: pushing sustainability back up the agenda. While the RHI was a world first, in comparison to some of our more forward-thinking European neighbours, the UK is still lagging far behind in terms of our approach to energy efficiency. Focusing on ROI and tariff payments and losing sight of the lasting benefits of sustainable heat would be an oversight. Breaking our dependence on fossil fuels and adopting sustainable alternatives to heat the WWW.HPMMAG.COM nation’s buildings should be a top priority – not only to ensure that we meet legally binding carbon reduction targets, but also for the wider benefit of ourselves and future generations. The best way to do this is through effective communication. Renewables manufacturers have a duty to spread the word about the advantages of their products. They should be shouting from the rooftops about the fact that they are the future-proof, cost-effective and reliable solution for the long-term. At NIBE, our whole ethos, ‘energy for life’, is based around just that: turning away from expensive, dirty and finite fossil fuels, and instead making the most of the natural energy sources around us. Quite simply, it makes environmental, economic and logistical sense. As the first port of call for customers looking for a new heating system, installers also have a vital role to play. They are seen as a trusted source of information and expertise, which puts them in the ideal position to showcase the true quality, efficiency and scope of the different renewable heating technologies on offer – from heat pumps to biomass boilers. They are also perfectly placed to offer customers tailored advice on the best option for optimum performance and lasting financial and ecological gains. Without installers’ support and guidance, consumers are far less likely to be aware of renewables and their capabilities, let alone have the motivation to invest. EMPOWER INSTALLERS On the subject of installers, we also need plenty of them if we’re to see renewables become truly mainstream. Building a substantial workforce of highly skilled plumbing 50 APRIL 2016 HEATING & PLUMBING MONTHLY and heating professionals is integral because more qualified installers mean more high-quality installs. These are fundamental to preserving the reputations of both the technologies themselves and the industry as a whole – as well as encouraging future uptake. However, as things stand, there simply aren’t enough trained renewables installers to get us where we need to be. In fact, there are currently only around 1,200 Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) accredited installers in the UK. To increase these numbers, manufacturers should be offering strong training packages that make fitting renewable technologies an attractive and lucrative career prospect, and ultimately inspire installers to enhance their skillset. Tradespeople themselves should also be proactive about recognising the commercial benefits of upskilling, and pursuing the necessary credentials to get ahead. However, at NIBE we do believe that there is currently too much red tape around the MCS process, which is acting as a deterrent for many installers. We’re calling for the process to be made simpler, more cost-effective and subsequently more accessible for the trade – which will, in turn, give them the tools and motivation they need to ignite wide-scale consumer interest in renewables. DRIVE EFFECTIVE HEAT POLICY Finally – yet perhaps most importantly – having robust legislation in place to support the long-term, national rollout of renewable heat is absolutely central to success beyond 2020. Alongside short-term drivers like the RHI, the government must put in place a policy framework that’s specifically designed to give renewables the chance to compete with traditional fossil fuel-based systems on a level playing field. It’s for this reason that NIBE has joined other industry leaders in campaigning for certain efficiency-enhancing measures to be made mandatory when gas boiler heater systems are fitted in new-builds. For example, we want to see every new-build system incorporate a modulating heating control (such as a weather compensator) in line with relevant ErP guidelines. This means it would only use the exact amount of fuel needed to match the building’s heat loss. Additionally, as boilers can only operate at optimum efficiency if flow temperatures are below 55°C, we are calling for this to be set as a legal maximum. Simple but effective changes like these would make today’s heating systems ‘low carbon technology-ready’, thereby paving the way for future renewables installations. They would also help to eliminate the market barriers that currently only unfairly challenge the renewable heating industry, and not the gas boiler industry. Alongside an abundant installer base and a cohesive communications strategy with long-term sustainability at its heart, they would give the market the grounding it needs to flourish long after the RHI has gone. enquiry number 135 NIBE offers renewables training at its centre in Chesterfield


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