UK: More money for renewable heat

Subsidisation of solar thermal, heat pumps and biomass energy will soon improve significantly in the UK. (Photo: dpa)
Subsidisation of solar thermal, heat pumps and biomass energy will soon improve significantly in the UK. (Photo: dpa)

A feed-in tariff only exists for electricity. There are no two ways about that. However, the Renewable Heat Incentive Programme (RHI) in the UK shows that this is not true. The programme provides remuneration for every kilowatt hour from solar thermal, heat pump or bioenergy sources. It will now be completely reformed.

The British Minister for Energy and Climate Change Gregory Barker has announced major changes in the way renewable heat is subsidised. The UK promotes the use of solar thermal, heat pumps and biomass heating with a system similar to the German feed-in tariffs in the electricity sector.

Since 2011, the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) has provided money for companies, energy providers and other major consumers that use renewable heating technologies, based on the actual amount of heat produced. This system will now be revised. The most important change is that the domestic sector will now be promoted. Similar to the German EEG, funding will vary depending on the technology used. Solar thermal energy will receive the most money. This technology will be subsidised with 19.2 p / kWh (about 23 ct / kWh). Geothermal heat pumps take second place, receiving 18.8 p / kWh, followed by biomass heating at 12.2 p / kWh and air heat pumps with 7.3 p / kWh.

Existing subsidisation for large plants with a thermal output of more than 200 kW will also be revised. Funding for large solar thermal plants will be increased to 10 p / kWh. Funding for large biomass district heating systems will rise to 2 p / kWh. Biogas plants with an output of 200 to 600 kW will receive 5.9 p / kWh. Systems with higher outputs will get 2.2 p / kWh. The changes were necessary, Minister Barker explains:"It is vital that we get the level of support right so that the market can invest with confidence, cost reductions can be achieved and the market can grow sustainably."

The British umbrella organisation of the renewable energy industry, the Renewable Energy Association, is satisfied with the proposal. Even though the RHI programme fell short of expectations during the last two years, the government clearly paid attention to what the industry and professionals were saying when formulating the current draft. The association is particularly pleased with the completely new funding for air heat pumps, the adjusted rates for technologies such as solar thermal as well as the many improvements in bioenergy.

Subsidisation via the RHI programme has been an ongoing issue in the UK during recent years and has led to some uncertainty in the industry. REA Chief Executive Dr Nina Skorupska said:"Mixed messages from Government have unnerved many in the renewables sector lately, so today’s RHI announcement gives a timely boost to the green economy. There is still room for improvement, but what the RHI needs most now is to be left alone for a while, so the market can develop without fear of further changes."

The fact that the proposed changes would turn out so positive was far from certain for quite a while. Nonetheless, it still is not a finalised law, but merely an announcement by the minister that will have to pass through Parliament.

Jan Gesthuizen


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