A call to end uncertainty on solar heat in the UK

26.10.2016

A group of 21 organisations called on the British government to end the uncertainty and retain solar thermal in the Renewable Heath Incentive (RHI). In a letter sent to the minister for energy and intellectual property, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, representatives of the solar industry, local governments, manufacturers, housing providers, land owners and environmental groups said that the technology should not be excluded from the support scheme.

The RHI was introduced in 2011 to promote the uptake of renewable heating by homeowners and businesses. In a consultation published in March, however, the government proposed to reform the programme. The reform includes the removal of solar thermal from 2017, due to low deployment and high costs.

Since the consultation, the industry and investors have been in a limbo, wrote the groups. “If the proposal to remove solar thermal from the RHI is implemented, the technology will be at a competitive disadvantage and there is every prospect that the current supply chain will atrophy, together with valuable UK skills and the manufacturing industry where the UK has cutting edge capabilities,” says the letter.

Instead of cutting solar thermal out, the signatories argue that the government should expand the number of applications allowed. These should cover district heating, space heating, industrial process heating, as well as integration of solar with other renewable heating technologies. 

Signatories of the letter include the Solar Trade Association, Friends of the Earth, Energy for London, Scottish Renewables and several companies. They argue that solar thermal could help decarbonize heat, help tackle fuel poverty and be easily deployed in areas where space and air quality are a problem, like London.

“The industry was shocked, in March, when the Government proposed removing solar thermal from the RHI, whilst retaining support for heat pumps and biomass. Now, six months later, the industry is still in limbo as it waits for the government’s response,” said Paul Barwell, CEO of the Solar Trade Association. “We are confident that the Solar Trade Association made a compelling case to support solar thermal and hope the government rethinks their proposal. However it is urgent that we get a decision quickly to end this uncertainty.”

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the UK ranks 44th in the global solar thermal market. Groups fear that without support to this technology, the country will struggle to meet its targets of alleviating fuel poverty and reaching 12% renewable heat by 2020.

Claudia Delpero

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