The state of UK renewable heating

It is difficult to see where the government is going with renewable heating. On one hand they are totally struggling with the Renewable Heat Incentive, only a High Court ruling preventing them from U-turning on a deal it created for consumers who were willing to invest in solar panels and other renewable energy products. When they suddenly decided to half the benefit they had dangled as the carrot for householders to shell out for the renewable types of energy, they were took to court and lost. Now they are holding talks in the summer to see what went wrong, where they are going and even if the incentive has a future at all, considering the ‘millions of pounds’ of taxpayers money that Greg Baker reports could be on the line. The ‘greenest’ government has a touch of red cheeks on this one.

Where the contradiction kicks in is, as part of the deal that would have helped consumers generate a considerable part of their fuel bill (8.5kw/hr according to the report) through selling their energy product back to those with a wider audience, biomass boilers were a part of the contract that now needs radical overall as it is costing too much, alongside solar water heaters and other products.

However, another firm, Anesco, is managing to fit these ETA biomass boilers into UK businesses for free. In a scheme designed to aid all manner of businesses that currently operate LPG fuel and oil boilers their incentive, supported in full by the same RHI that is threatening to cut the amount domestic consumers can claim towards their own bill, is to cut fuel costs by anywhere between 30-50%, stated in one report.

It is not only the fitting that is inclusive in the deal, either. It is the intention of Anesco to install the biomass boilers, store the fuel and provide the delivery thereof, provide ongoing monitoring and analysis and provide a once a year overhaul and service, thus negating the need for any boiler cover plan, to boot.

Okay, you’re guessing that Anesco will provide the fuel and charge accordingly but that’s a big investment on their part; if they can afford the man-hours as well as the equipment and service contract, why are the government ruling out the continuity of the RHI program?

Reading the forums and related press, this is my best guess. The Conservatives like privatisation – anyone who lived through the eighties can catalogue the public services that diverted funds from finding the public into the hands of private investors. It is this private sector that is now panicking as renewable energy becomes a viable, affordable option for millions of domestic households.

British Gas, Southern Electricity, Eon, nPower – you can rattle off as many as you like – instead of having control over the price of domestic fuel, they will suddenly become the customer. And what happens if the tables genuinely turn. The smaller fuel suppliers start bidding for your electricity? Millions of households collecting the suns rays, pooling it and re-distributing it? Where does that leave the big power houses of the domestic fuel sector?

Anesco have proved that a business can be built by offering such products freely as long as they can supply the fuel. Take the fuel out of the equation and it becomes a different proposition. It is my humble opinion that the power houses have had a quiet word in the shell-like of the Tory-boys – don’t forget, they put them ‘in control’ in the first place – and the government has got a bit of a squeaky sphincter on this one.

More proof? Ask yourself this: knowing how important renewable energy is for future generations, and how relatively little it costs compared to the price of a new house, why aren’t the government demanding that all new houses are built with solar collection facilities?

But the sad thing is, the energy consortia needn’t miss out on making a few bob. They could develop flexible solar panels and, in the same way you utilise an annual boiler insurance policy and service once a year, they could offer that. Solar energy is, after all , just another piece of the heating system – the fact that, unless there is a sunshine tax, the government can’t charge you for it (or appoint someone who can and divert the taxes back to Whitehall) has got several Top Dogs a tad worried about where their next bonus may be coming from.