After several months of consultation about removing new solar thermal systems from the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) starting in 2017, the British government announced on 14 December 2016 that the support will in fact continue. The government published the results of the consultation in a document called The Renewable Heat Incentive: A Reformed Scheme (see attached pdf). Here it was announced that support for new solar thermal installations will in fact continue through the RHI scheme without changes. Hence the tariff for the households will remain at the current level of 0.1974 Pound Sterling (GBP)/kWh paid over seven years and for non-households the tariff will remain at the current level of 0.1028 GBP/kWh over 20 years. Solar space heating is still not eligible. The chart shows the small portion of solar thermal accredited installations (1.57 %) in the non-domestic RHI between Q2 2014 and Q3 2016 – in total 223 solar applications since the start of the programme.
Since the win at the general election May 2015, the UK Conservative Party has made significant changes to policies that were related to energy and environment protection. These include the currently in parliament discussed reduction of subsidies for wind and solar PV with the Feed-In tariffs and the reduction of the renewable quote for electricity suppliers, that are stipulated to source an increasing proportion of electricity from renewable sources. Also the climate change levy (CCL) exemption from renewable electricity schemes has been removed and the Green Deal and ‘zero carbon’ homes initiatives have been abandoned. These cuts were justified by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) who announced these would be “….Reducing energy bills for hard working British families and businesses and meeting climate goals in the most cost effective way ….. ”
UK Energy Minister Greg Barker, initiator of The Green Deal, called it a “flagship energy efficiency programme” during the launch of the scheme in the beginning 2013. One and half years later Barker stepped down as minister and the statistics of the Green Deal shows a rather poor performance despite more than half-a-billion pounds of taxpayers’ money being spent. The question is now whether the whole scheme can survive after the parliament members of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee report delivered a highly critical review of the programme’s performance and describes how “the first eighteen months of the Green Deal have been largely wasted”.
Banner: Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC)
The UK has two Renewable Heat Incentives (RHI) that assist solar thermal. The non-domestic variant (non-dRHI) has operated since November 2011. The variant for households (dRHI) has operated since April 2014. Whereas the share of solar thermal applications within the non-DRHI is still low with 3 % (left chart), every fifth new domestic renewable heating system contains a solar water heater (right chart). For solar thermal, the non-dRHI currently pays 0.10 GBP/kWh for 20 years and the dRHI currently pays the end-user tariff at a rate of 0.192 Pound Sterling (GBP)/kWh for 7 years. Both rates will be annually adjusted for inflation through the payment period. The pie charts show the numbers of accreditations of non-dRHI and dRHI technologies.
Source: Gas and Electricity Markets Authority (Ofgem)
The domestic Renewable Heating Incentive (dRHI) for England, Wales and Scotland has been launched on 9 April 2014. For solar thermal, the dRHI will pay the end-user tariff at a rate of 0.192 Pound Sterling (GBP)/kWh for 7 years. The existing non-domestic RHI scheme continues at a new rate adjusted for inflation of 0.094 GBP/kWh for 20 years. The dRHI applies to biomass boilers & stoves, ground-source & air-source heat pumps heating and solar thermal DHW for single homes. The subsidy is for properties capable of getting a domestic Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) which confirms the property is a domestic dwelling. The recipient of the subsidy is the owner of the heating system. So this can be the person owning and living in the home, a private landlord or a registered social landlord. In general it is not applicable to a new home unless this has been self-built. Other requirements are that the property should also have a Green Deal Assessment (GDA) and where the GDA recommends installing loft and cavity wall insulation, these must first be fitted before applying for the dRHI. New self-built house can be exempt from the GDA requirement, as these will be assumed to have adequate building insulation. There are initial costs to the user to first obtain the EPC and GDA. (Find more information in the database of incentive programmes.)
The UK Renewable Heating Incentive (RHI) for Households, including assistance for solar thermal, has been announced since 2010 despite the non-household version being launched late in 2011. Positive signs indicate this will now be ready before summer 2014, as the UK government recently passed the relevant draft statutory instrument. This is the result of the consultation process which start in September 2013 based on a proposal of Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC).
For almost a year now, the UK government has been recording statistics on all the subsidised renewable heating and electricity installations. It is now possible to compare the success of the subsidies for different technologies using the peak power rating. The chart shows the cumulative peak power for non-household projects within the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). Solar thermal has had a poor performance with only 1 MW installed capacity since 2010, which represents less than 1 % of all RHI-subsidised renewable heat installations. This is no surprise because the number of UK sales by square metre of collector area has been in decline since mid-2011.
Source: Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC)
In July 2013 the UK’s Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) confirmed the tariff rates for the long-awaited Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). The Government’s press release at 12 July 2013 promises that the solar thermal tariff will be set at ‘at least 19.2 Pound Stirling pence (p)/kWh’. This compares with 7.3 p/kWh for air source heat pumps, 12.2 p/kWh for biomass boilers and 18.8 p/kWh for ground source heat pumps.
In March 2013, the UK Government came under criticism for their updated heat strategy when they announced further delays to the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) being made applicable to householders. As a stop-gap, it was announced in parallel to extend the householder’s Renewable Heat Premium Payment (RHPP) scheme for another year. In summary, much of the uncertainty about these schemes has been blamed for a 35% drop in UK solar thermal sales. Since then, better news has been offered by the UK Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC).
In December 2006, the UK Government set a new policy that all new homes in England would be ‘zero carbon’ from 2016 and introduced an initiative called the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH), which would allow ratings to measure different levels of compliance. Although initially confusing, the term ‘Carbon’ in fact means anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide emissions. Although these ratings did not specifically promote solar thermal, it was most difficult to comply with the ratings without renewable technologies on the building. Ever since, several governmental announcements brought delay and doubts into this far-reaching climate protection policy. The photo shows a low carbon building in the town of Rothwell, Northamptonshire that achieves reductions of 65 % compared to Part L of the building regulations 2006.