UK Govt. changes to renewable heat sector pose threat to Scottish solar and biomass

A 90kW wood pellet biomass boiler, housed within a prefabricated heat cabin with integrated boiler room and fuel store at Aviemore medical centre. Photograph HW Energy
A 90kW wood pellet biomass boiler, housed within a prefabricated heat cabin with integrated boiler room and fuel store at Aviemore medical centre. Photograph HW Energy

Proposed changes to the way renewable heat technology is supported by the UK Government are counterproductive and will significantly impact the industry, according to a Scottish trade association.

Issues with tariff rates, the introduction of a budget cap, and the removal of support for solar thermal panels from the scheme, are all highlighted in the Scottish Renewables response to a consultation on the Renewable Heat Incentive.
 
In particular, it is thought Scotland’s growing biomass industry – which is able to use locally-grown timber to produce low-carbon warmth – could be affected by the planned changes 

An association spokesman said: “The biomass industry in the UK has taken a number of years to develop and in the process has created thousands of jobs in development and supply chain businesses across the country.
 
“Scotland has been perfectly-placed to capitalise on this because of its geography, high heat demand and plentiful supplies of timber.
 
“Changes proposed in the RHI consultation will limit opportunities across the board. They will also disproportionately impact the public sector, which has been the driving force behind a number of renewable heat projects in Scotland.

“While we broadly support the aims of this consultation to help build sustainable markets and support the right renewable heating technologies for the right uses, we feel that a number of the proposals are counterproductive and will significantly impact the industry.”

The proposed changes follow a year of cuts to UK Government support for the renewables industry, as well as clear signs that the UK is on course to miss its 2020 renewable energy target.

A number of newly-elected Holyrood MPs will be invited to speak at SCOTLAND’S RENEWABLE FUTURE conference, being held in Edinburgh on 26 May 2016. For more information: http://www.scotlandsrenewablefuture.co.uk/
 
Both the Committee on Climate Change and Secretary of State for Energy, Amber Rudd, acknowledged last year that the UK is currently on course to miss its 2020 ambition of meeting 12% of heat needs from low-carbon sources.
 
Plans to remove support for solar thermal panels – which convert sunlight into hot water – are also criticised in the response, which sets out the best way forward for the renewable energy industry.

Solar thermal technology has been widely adopted by housing associations and was rated top for reliability and ease of use by householders in a Department of Energy and Climate Change survey in January this year.

The spokesman added: “As things stand, both the UK and Scottish Governments are likely to miss their renewable energy targets.
We urgently need a strategic heat policy which includes support for a range and mix of technologies.
 
“The particular strengths of solar thermal panels – which are now at risk of having their support removed – include negligible running costs, and that they can be added to existing heating systems.

“They also work effectively in built-up urban areas and on smaller roofs, broadening the opportunities for homes to invest in renewables.”

The Solar Trade Association argues that the Government’s proposals are contradictory, on the one hand seeking to extend renewable heat to less-able-to-pay homes, but removing the best technology for those households with the other.

It only costs £7 per year to operate a domestic solar thermal system, and solar thermal is the only renewable heat technology suited to urban areas.

Mike Landy, Head of Policy at the Solar Trade Association, commented: “Everyone gets the sense of using heat from the sun to meet our hot water needs. 

“So it’s hard to understand why the government is proposing to remove solar thermal from the country’s toolkit to fight climate change, especially when the UK is also struggling to meet its renewable heat target.”

“Recent months have shown renewed market interest in solar thermal from consumers, so we call on the Government to reinvigorate its support – not cut it off.  Otherwise the country risks losing a strategically important option to reduce emissions and our reliance on fossil fuels”.

Analysis conducted earlier this year by the Solar Trade Association has shown that there has been an 88% increase in solar thermal sales enquiries compared to the same period in 2015 for the first few months of this year.

The Renewable Energy Association – the largest in the UK –  warned that if the Government’s proposed changes are carried into effect,  the resulting collapse of the biomass heat industry would result in job losses and a significantly slowed rate of decarbonisation.

 

 

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