The UK government has refused to include air source heat pumps into its Renewable Heat Incentive, more commonly referred to as the RHI, and recently the heating industry has issued fresh calls to the government to overturn their decision and consider the air source heat pump as an equal to other renewable heat technologies.
With climate change still on the front of the news pages we still have a long way to go to make sure that our world is a sustainable one. If we are going to be able to transform the future of the planet we need to start thinking even more seriously about energy use, consumption and where this energy comes from, which is exactly why issues like this one need to be high on the agenda.
Air source heat pumps are a form of renewable heat technology. They can be installed into homes and businesses and use the air outside to generate heat for the premises they are connected to. They can serve two functions, firstly to heat water and secondly to heat central heating systems. Air-to-water heat pumps can provide you with both functions whereas air-to-air systems will only be able to heat your home or business. Air source heat pumps work by extracting heat from the environment, the simplest way to describe it is a backwards fridge. This heated air then either circulated to heat your home or used to heat a fluid which in turn can then heat your water systems.
The RHI is still in its first phase in the UK and was designed by the government specifically to encourage the use of these forms of energy in the home and work environment. With the aim to having 12% of all heating coming from renewable sources by 2020, this is an important factor in the Government achieving its goals. The scheme encourages people to install renewable heat energies through fixed incomes for every kilowatt hour of heat produced and the Renewable Heat Premium Payment scheme means that you might be able to be provided with financial support to help with the initial installation of the technology.
Although those installing the air source heat pumps closely related technology – ground source heat pumps will receive the benefits of the RHI scheme, air source heat pumps are still not said to fit the bill. The reason for excluding air source heat pumps from the inclusion list was cited to be due to insufficient cost data available to calculate an appropriate level of incentive, even though the industry claims that this data was available from as early as May 2011. With this in mind, and phase 2 of the RHI growing ever closer, a coalition of authorities in the industry – the Micropower Council, the Heat Pumps Association, BEAMA and the Heating and Hot Water Industry Council have appealed yet again to the Government surrounding the exclusion of this green technology stating that there should be an RHI tariff for air source heat pumps in place this October.
Dave Sowden, Micropower Council Chief Executive released a statement which confirmed that there is no legal reason why this action cannot be completed in October and that no further consultation was needed stating that the Minister “now has more evidence on air-to-water heat pumps than any of the technologies already benefiting from the RHI”. He backed up the thoughts of other industry specialists saying that the exclusion of air source heat pumps in the RHI represented a “serious and harmful market distortion. All we want is a level playing field for all renewable heating solutions”.
With the installation of an air source heat pump now considered to be a ‘permitted development’, in other words, one for which planning permission is not needed, the inclusion of the technologies into the RHI could really make them a green technology of the future to watch.
Bio: Rebecca Field is writing on behalf of RA Brown, a specialist company installing ground source and air source heat pumps in Suffolk, UK and the surrounding area.