Scots housing associations seek to cut ‘green tape’ in new Renewable Heat Incentive scheme

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Commenting on the announcement that the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) has now been officially launched, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) has welcomed the scheme which has been designed to cut the cost of renewable heating in off-gas areas.

The RHI, which was principally designed to help the UK Government to cut carbon emissions in order to meet climate change targets, will also provide affordable warmth in homes that don’t have access to mains gas.

David Stewart, SFHA Policy Manager, said: “We are delighted that the long awaited RHI has been launched. Fuel poverty is a significant issue in rural Scotland, with the latest Scottish House Condition Survey estimating that 52% of households that don’t have access to mains gas spend more than 10% of their income on fuel bills.

“A number of our members have invested significantly in renewable heating, including measures such as air source and ground source heat pumps, solar water heating and biomass district heating schemes. These systems are currently more expensive to install than gas central heating and electric storage heating, so the introduction of the RHI will help our members with homes in rural Scotland to invest in renewable energy, cut their tenants’ fuel bills and reduce carbon emissions.

“The SFHA is pleased the UK Government listened to lobbying by the SFHA and its members and decided to make social landlords eligible for the RHI, having initially planned to exclude them. Housing associations and co-operatives in Scotland are already leading on the introduction of renewable heating – with landlords such as Dumfries and Galloway Housing Partnership, Hebridean Housing Partnership and Hjaltland Housing Association having already installed a large number of energy efficient measures.”

“There is, however, one issue of concern for the SFHA and its members. It is currently proposed that to qualify for RHI, a household must first undergo a Green Deal Assessment.

“This assessment is designed to check whether there are low cost measures, such as cavity wall insulation, that could be installed to improve the property’s energy efficiency. While this may be reasonable for individual owners, it is unnecessary for social landlords who know their stock well and have invested in low cost measures where they can be carried out.

“The Department of Energy (DECC) proposes that the rule applies not only to new installations but to legacy applications where the measures have already been installed.

“For Dumfries and Galloway Housing Partnership, this would mean funding over 1,000 assessments. This requirement would lead to unnecessary costs and there are also concerns that there are few, if any, qualified assessors in rural Scotland.

“We are therefore asking Energy Minister Greg Barker to cut back on this bureaucracy and allow our members to get on with improving the homes of their tenants and cutting their fuel bills.”  

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