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HPM-04-APR-2016

Got a story? Ring us on 01732 748041 or e-mail twood@unity-media.com RENEWABLEENERGIES A renewed view of renewables With the current renewables market performing well below expectations, Martyn Bridges, director of marketing and technical support at Worcester, Bosch Group, discusses whether the UK needs to take a different approach and what we can learn from other countries... It is an indictment of the renewables market that in 2010 some forecasts put the likely number of heat pumps being sold by 2015 at 100,000 a year, yet the actual result was closer to 15,000 by the end of last year. While it may be disappointing that renewable technologies have not proved as popular in the UK as they have in other countries, we really need to ask whether the UK is geared up to going green. THE POWER OF IMPORT For many years the UK’s gas supply was predominantly natural gas sourced from the North Sea. While we now import more than we produce, mainly in the form of Liquefied Natural Gas, our energy remains relatively inexpensive when compared to some other EU countries. Although fuel bills may have increased as much as three times over the last 15 years, our energy is not as expensive as it is for those living in countries which may have to import all of their fuel. At the same time, off-mains customers are benefitting from the lowest oil prices in four years, all of which combines to mean that the urgent necessity from a price perspective to install renewable technology has not yet reached our shores. EU INSPIRATION Of the countries that are embracing renewable technology, we see a distinct difference in the way they view and use energy. German gas prices are as much as double the UK’s price and as a result they build very high efficiency houses, making better suited to renewables. German architects also often devote a proportion of the floorplan to household heating and hot water production with German houses featuring a utility room where a boiler and cylinder can be stored alongside other bulky household appliances. By contrast in the UK, we build smaller houses, mainly due to the planning constraints and costs associated with bigger builds. As a result, we tend not to put valuable storage space aside for the equipment required to make renewables really a possibility. An additional challenge faced by the UK is that a lot of the renewable alternatives to gas boilers are electrically driven. Heat pumps, for example, are powered by electricity, which in the UK is derived from either coal or gas. France, however, where the technology is more popular, has access to a vast amount of nuclear electricity just like Scandinavia benefits from Hydro activity as well. Once you start having to use gas to generate the electricity to run green WWW.HPMMAG.COM Air to air heat pumps (left) and ground source heat pumps (right) are powered by electricity, which in the UK is derived from either coal or gas heating systems the process doesn’t seem to make as much sense. We have an enviable gas infrastructure in the UK – with over 85% of properties on the grid – so it’s understandable that people wouldn’t want to disconnect their properties just yet. ENERGY EFFICIENT HOUSING If homeowners do choose to install renewables, the preparation and costs required can extend well beyond that of the mere heating appliances. Approximately 80% of all properties in the UK were built before 1960 and weren’t designed to be ultra-efficient. For example, many have solid walls making cavity wall insulation impossible. Homes can be retrofitted which is often costly but the Green Deal demonstrated that more of a barrier to take-up is that it causes a great deal of upheaval. Without an energy efficient house, homeowners cannot achieve the cost and carbon dioxide savings renewables promise, and so they are unlikely to be installed. Given the materials we have available to us, the new homes we’re building should be high efficiency. That said, renewables cannot rely on the new build sector alone for growth. In the UK we only build about 130,000 new homes a year, and while the government would like to see this increased to 200,000, the compromises necessary to achieve this have resulted in the shelving of the zero carbon homes policy. Over recent months the government has cut a 54 APRIL 2016 HEATING & PLUMBING MONTHLY number of green initiatives including reduced road tax for low emissions cars, solar panel subsidies and even shelving the flagship policy, the Green Deal, prompting the question; is the UK really committed to renewable technology? If headlines are to be believed, talks at the recent Paris Climate Summit suggest there will be an end to using gas for heating and cooking in our homes in as little as the next 15 years. Whether this will be achievable remains to be seen but if, or when, renewables begin to play a greater part in the heating of UK homes, it is important we make them as accessible as possible for both homeowners and installers. The Microgeneration Certification Scheme burdened installers with bureaucracy and resulted in them paying out for assessment fees which did not offer a return for their businesses. Ensuring the installer community is not burdened with too much red tape – or in this case green tape – will be key to the success of renewables. One thing is for sure, as the finite resources of fossil fuels continue to diminish, renewables will undoubtedly play a greater part in the future heating of UK homes. What is still to be determined however, is whether this will be on an individual homeowner level or as part of a centralised environmental initiative. enquiry number 137


HPM-04-APR-2016
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