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HPM November 2015

Got a story? Ring us on 01732 748041 or e-mail twood@unity-media.com GREENCOMMENT Time for a more cost-effective approach Jeremy Hawksley, director general at OFTEC, urges the government to get the UK on track to low carbon heat and make renewables a more attractive option for the industry and consumer... Following a wave of cuts to the green energy sector, OFTEC believes it’s time for a more cost-effective approach to low carbon heat and for the UK to adopt a cohesive policy, which includes more affordable measures to deliver energy savings for homeowners alongside the broader carbon reduction agenda. At the end of July, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) announced there would be no more funding for the Green Deal and Green Deal Home Improvement Fund schemes, alongside sweeping cuts to subsidies for the renewable energy sector. Energy and climate change secretary Amber Rudd said the aim was to rein in “out of control” green energy costs and “reduce emissions in the most cost-effective way”. A few weeks earlier, the European Court of Justice dealt another blow to the renewables sector, ruling that the UK had failed to comply with a VAT Directive so energy saving measures including heat pumps, solar thermal panels and biomass boilers can no longer benefit from a reduced rate of five per cent VAT. Instead, they will be charged at the UK standard rate of 20% when the decision is finalised in the 2016 Budget. OFTEC welcomes signs that the government has recognised the failings of the previous administration’s energy efficiency policies with the hope that a new, more pragmatic and effective strategy will be implemented. In a recent letter to Amber Rudd, OFTEC underlined its support for the government’s 2050 carbon reduction targets, but urged DECC to urgently re-think its policies, which to date have not proved popular or cost-effective. Although DECC is still incentivising consumers to switch to renewables, the recent cuts to support for the green energy sector and the change to the VAT rate will make these options less attractive. The previous coalition government’s approach to low carbon heat was fragmented and ineffective. With inadequate schemes such as Green Deal and the underperforming domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), reform was clearly needed – as Amber Rudd has acknowledged – and we’re encouraged that the new government seems keen to listen to and work with industry to improve the situation. However, while the RHI will be attractive to a wealthy minority, the majority of consumers need simple, affordable ways to reduce carbon emissions. Most homeowners simply can’t afford to completely change their heating systems and replace them with renewable technologies – even with government support. WWW.HPMMAG.COM What the UK needs is a strong, clear, carbon reduction and energy efficiency policy which offers cost-effective, easy to implement measures that will work. Keeping things simple and affordable will encourage many more consumers to buy into the idea and, therefore, deliver results. BOILER SCRAPPAGE SCHEMES WORK Top of the list of OFTEC’s recommendations to DECC is a simple boiler scrappage scheme to encourage the installation of high efficiency, modern condensing models, which can reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by up to 30%. A similar scheme running in Northern Ireland has seen more than 13,350 new oil condensing boilers installed between September 2012 and March 2015, saving over 21,500 tonnes of CO2 per annum, as well as significantly reducing consumers’ fuel bills. The vast majority of these boiler replacements wouldn’t have happened without government funding. OFTEC is in full favour of renewable heating technologies and to this end has expanded its scopes of registration to cover heat pumps and solar thermal systems, with biomass to follow later this year. It’s important for our technicians to be able to advise consumers on the full range of heating options available and for some properties, especially new builds, renewables can work very well. However, we recognise that at the moment, even with government incentives, the high up-front cost of installing a renewable heating system makes it prohibitive for the majority of the population. Renewables are also impractical for many older, rural properties due to the poor insulation levels in these homes. Add to this the huge drop in the price of oil, which latest figures show has fallen by a further 4.7% in the last quarter and is now 18.5% cheaper than mains gas, and there is even less incentive on a cost basis to switch to renewables. That’s why we are proposing a more gradual transition to low carbon heat, led by a simple boiler scrappage scheme which would be practical and affordable for so many more people and has been proven to work. This could then lead to consumers taking further CO2 saving steps in the future, especially as condensing boilers work very effectively in 16 NOVEMBER 2015 HEATING & PLUMBING MONTHLY tandem with renewable technologies as hybrid systems. TAKE UP OF RENEWABLES REMAINS LOW According to DECC’s latest Public Attitudes Tracker (Wave 14), support for renewables remains strong with 75% of those polled stating they back the use of green technologies. Unsurprisingly, support is particularly high for people in social grade AB (85%) and among those with incomes over £50,000 per annum (88%). However, the number of people actually adopting renewable heating systems remains low. Just two per cent have installed a biomass boiler, one per cent an air source heat pump, 0.5% a ground source heat pump and two per cent solar thermal panels. Conversely, a much higher number have replaced an old gas boiler with a more efficient condensing model. DECC’s data shows that in principle the majority of the population support the use of renewables. However, the survey also suggests there is a distinct difference between backing an idea and actually taking action to install a renewable heating system. Almost 50% more people have upgraded their boilers in an effort to reduce carbon emissions and save money than have adopted renewable technologies. This clearly shows that a simple boiler scrappage scheme would be far more popular than any of the carbon reduction strategies the government has employed to date. We urge DECC to take action now and get the UK on the right track towards low carbon heat. enquiry number 107 Condensing boilers work effectively in tandem with renewable technologies


HPM November 2015
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