Homeowners relying on off-grid heating will be offered payments of thousands of pounds from Wednesday to switch to renewable energy alternatives in a government drive to cut carbon emissions from heat.
The RHI differs from the feed-in tariffs for solar panels launched in 2010 – which paid for both electricity generated as well as exported to the national grid – by paying just for heat generated for use at home.
Homeowners will have to pay for a green deal assessment of their home, which typically cost £100-150, before being eligible for the RHI scheme.
Cathy Debenham, who runs the renewable energy advice website YouGen, said: “Its aim is to enable renewable heating systems to compete on a level playing field with fossil fuel ones. The payments, which are made over seven years compensate the owner for the price difference between the two, including the cost of borrowing money to pay for installation.”
However, she cautioned that people should make sure technologies are right for their property before switching. “Not all renewable heating is appropriate for every property. Heat pumps run at much lower temperatures than a standard boiler, and so they are most suited to well insulated buildings, ideally with underfloor heating.”
“Biomass boilers are significantly bigger than an oil boiler and will need more space, plus space to store the fuel, which must be kept dry. Solar thermal panels are not much use if you have electric showers, as most of the hot water they generate won’t be used.”
Oftec, the oil heating industry’s trade body, claims that the RHI will detract take up of the offer due to:
- High upfront costs make RHI only fit for the wealthy few
- Expense, bureaucracy and impracticality of installing renewable technologies under RHI will be major barriers to take-up
- Independent report finds just 5.6% of ‘off-gas’ households would consider renewables under RHI
- Boiler scrappage scheme would deliver benefits more quickly and cheaply to households and the environment
With 1.1 million homes using oil for heating, OFTEC believes the initial cost of installing renewable technologies is likely to be prohibitive for all but the wealthy few, unless homeowners are prepared to take out a loan, making it unlikely that the vast majority will take up the scheme.