Monday 20 May 2013

A Chink of Light for the Solar Heating Industry?

What the new £600 Grant Really Means for Solar Heating in the UK

Are you a glass half-full
type of person?
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) announced today that grants given to households installing solar heating and other renewable heating technologies have been doubled in value.

The grant for solar heating under the Renewable Heat Premium Payment (RHPP) is increased from £300 to £600.  Householders will have to spend a bit of the extra money on a Green Deal assessment, at a cost of around £100.

The move follows lobbying from renewable heating trade associations and a twitter campaign initiated by the solarblogger. 

The #TweetforHeat campaign had the aim of attracting the attention of the Climate Change Minister, Greg Barker, to a blog article on this website – 'You Just Couldn’t Make This Up'.  The article points out the damage that successive delays to the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) has been doing to the renewable heating industry and proposes an increase to the grants as an immediate measure to help the industry get back on the front foot.

While the grant increase will undoubtedly boost installation rates for solar heating and is fantastic news for the solar industry, the most important aspect of this might not be the grant itself but rather what it signifies.

A Shot in the Arm

You see a feature of the argument to increase the grant was that DECC had revealed in its own consultation on the domestic RHI its intention to pay the RHI net of grants already made.   

If DECC truly was serious about launching the domestic RHI next spring, then the extra money to increase the grant would cost government nothing extra. 

After promoting solar heating systems to householders based on the promise of a future RHI, many solar installers had lost faith that this scheme would ever see the light of day.

The increase in the grant and Green Deal tie in sends a strong signal to the industry that DECC really is serious about getting the domestic RHI going next spring.  Because solar heating systems installed today will be able to apply to join the RHI once it launches, solar installers should be able to get back to promoting solar heating to householders with a renewed confidence.

For its part, government needs to ensure that it gets the promised summer announcement of the scheme details right.  The announcement needs to be comprehensive, including not only the tariff levels, but also the qualification criteria and the method for deeming the energy upon which the tariff will be paid. 

Once this information is out, (and assuming a reasonable tariff rate for solar) DECC will have put everything in place for the solar heating industry to really show what it can do.