As more success stories emerge, it will be seen as a more viable solution: the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is an excellent opportunity for housing associations to implement cost-effective, energy-efficient and high-performance heating.
Renewable heat sources have the potential to eradicate the frankly unacceptable levels of ‘heat poverty’ that are reported each year, particularly in off-grid communities that suffer so much during Winter both financially and in heating performance.
We recently saw details of an encouraging heating refurbishment at a Northampton social housing estate that implemented air-to-water heat pumps – a cost effective and energy-efficient solution for residents day-to-day, with the bonus of installation costs being offset by the RHI. Some residents from that project have already reported monthly fuel savings in excess of 50% when compared to their dated storage heaters. 38 heat pumps were installed over a relatively short six-week period to minimise disruption, and it is estimated that the investing social housing provider, emh homes, will receive approximately 75% of its £304,000 installation costs back within seven years, simply by meeting the RHI scheme qualifying criteria.
These are the kind of examples that need greater exposure; the kind that can genuinely demonstrate the advantages for both housing associations and its residents alike.
On a grander scale, the Energy Saving Trust Scotland has conducted research and estimates that Scottish households could save approximately £151 million every year by installing renewable heating systems – this is a region that in 2013 was estimated to have one-in-three houses that fell victim to fuel poverty.
This statistic should be enough to convince, so why hasn’t it? Appeasing fears of lofty installation costs through tales of RHI triumph is key.
Associations may feel that committing to renewable heating technologies such as air-to-water heat pumps requires an expensive solution to effectively distribute the energy. It may be assumed that costly underfloor heating is the only means of achieving this, but as per the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) heat emitter guide MCS021, we’re proud that Jaga’s fan-assisted, low-flow radiators are identified as one of the best-equipped – and most affordable – heat pump compatible solutions for the task.
Such efficient means of heat distribution can really help housing associations in getting better returns on investment, particularly through the RHI feed-in tariffs that can supplement the subsidising of installation costs nicely. Having MCS certified installers promoting RHI benefits ‘on the frontline’ so to speak, can surely sway decision-makers towards the most sustainable, affordable solution.
The more we, as an industry, can assist the government in demonstrating the value of the RHI, the more likely it is that we will influence a greater uptake. In preventing fuel poverty and significantly reducing CO2 emissions, utilising the RHI is surely the logical step moving forwards for every housing association.
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