A year ago on a 'renewables' road show, there were three distinct visitor types to the stand I was manning. Namely, people from social housing companies, gas installers looking at the business potential of 'getting into renewables'. and 'high net worth individuals'.
The social housing companies were meeting their carbon reduction policy commitments by installing insulation products, heat pumps, more efficient gas boilers, solar panels or a combination of all of them. The show was used to keep themselves up to date.
The gas installers were looking to differentiate themselves by switching into renewables and wanted to know how to do it. The final group were, usually, carrying out new build projects or carrying out renovation of old buildings which included installing a heat pump of sorts and they wanted to speak with the manufacturers.
According to OFGEM figures, the largest take up of the domestic RHI has happened in the South East of England, the wealthiest region of the country. In fact, nearly 46% of households that have made use of the RHI are in the South East. Considering that the scheme was aimed at homes which are off the gas grid, the South East has the highest number of homes connected to mains gas, according to OFTEC (http://www.oftec.org.uk/). Where there are higher proportions of homes off the gas grid, including Wales and Scotland, respectively, only 5.2% and 16.5% of total homeowners have taken up the RHI.
The Battle Upfront
Jeremy Hawksley, Director General of OFTEC said,
“It’s no surprise that the highest take up of the RHI has been in the most affluent parts of Britain. These homeowners can afford to change and, with interest rates remaining low, the RHI is little more than an alternative investment opportunity which adds even more value to their properties
“But what about the large percentage of off gas grid homes who simply can’t afford to get started with the RHI? The government is pushing all off grid homeowners towards the RHI in order to reduce their carbon emissions but, for most, the high upfront cost effectively excludes them. With almost 30% of rural households in England and 47% in Wales currently living in fuel poverty, this approach makes no sense at all.”
Nevertheless, judging by the number of news items that come into the Heat Pumps Today offices each month highlighting heat pumps installations across the UK, there are companies in the country making a healthy living installing heat pump solutions in commercial and domestic properties.
But, currently, the early adopters are taking advantage of the RHI in the UK. And, as with all early adopters in a market, they are often less concerned with the expense and they are more interested in the technology despite the possible pitfalls. Instead of the RHI being an incentive solely for the rich, perhaps the scheme is in its natural stage before the early majority begin to become aware of the incentive and work out how to take advantage of it?