More than 20 solar power organisations from across Scotland, England and the EU have called on the British government to retain solar thermal power within the UK renewable heat initiative.
The group, representing the solar industry, local government, manufacturers, housing providers, land owners, and environmental campaigners, have told junior Energy minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe that the internationally proven technology should not be unfairly disadvantaged by being removed from the scheme and that the diverse application of solar thermal should be fully recognised.
Peter Randall, Managing Director of Solar Kingdom – based in Edinburgh – is among the Scots signatories to the letter, along with AES Solar.
Pedro Dias, Secretary General of the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation also signed the letter.
Solar thermal is an internationally proven technology with the potential to play a major role in decarbonising the UK’s domestic and commercial sectors. Unlike other renewable heat technologies, solar has negligible running costs, and can be combined with existing heating systems, making it particularly well suited for homes in fuel poverty.
It works effectively in built-up areas, on smaller roofs, and in areas where air quality is an issue. In London solar thermal is the dominant technology for RHI applications.
However, if the proposal to remove solar thermal from the RHI is implemented there is every prospect that the current supply chain will atrophy, together with valuable UK skills and manufacturing capacity. Without this vital technology the Government will struggle to meet its dual targets of alleviating fuel poverty and reaching 12% renewable heat by 2020.
Paul Barwell, Chief Executive of the Solar Trade Association, commented: “The industry was shocked when the Government proposed removing solar thermal from the RHI, whilst retaining support for heat pumps and biomass.
“Now, six months later, the industry is still in limbo as it waits for the government’s response. We have made a compelling case to support solar thermal and hope the Government rethinks its proposal. However it is urgent that we get a decision quickly to end this uncertainty.”
Instead of cutting solar thermal from the RHI the organisations signing the letter argue that the Government should expand the number of applications of solar thermal allowed.
The letter states: “The UK currently lags well behind other countries in its use of solar thermal – ranking 44th according to the IEA for installed capacity per capita.
“However, with continued support from government under the Renewable Heat Incentive solar thermal has the opportunity to contribute to ever-wider range of applications, including district heating, space heating, industrial process heating, and valuable integration with other renewable heating technologies. The scope for solar thermal to displace fossil heating in industrial process heating is remarkable.
“Analysis by IRENA (The International Renewable Energy Agency) shows that solar thermal technologies could technically provide nearly half of heat demand in the industrial sector, displacing large amounts of carbon.”