The domestic RHI needs to change, says OFTEC

Published:  15 October, 2013

The government's domestic Renewable Heat Incentive scheme is currently costly, impractical and unlikely to attract consumers unless the focus changes, according to OFTEC.

Figures from the Energy Saving Trust, backed up by OFTEC estimates, show that the average cost of installing an air-source heat pump is £8,000, a ground-source heat pump £13,000 and a wood pellet boiler £10,000, compared to just £3,000 for a new, high-efficiency (90%+) condensing oil boiler. Taking these figures into account, OFTEC suggests that the cost of installing renewable technologies will be prohibitive for many – even with RHI payments

The disruption and impracticability of installing heat pumps will also deter many consumers, says OFTEC, as they either need new over-sized radiators to be fitted and/or underfloor heating in order to work effectively.

A further potential issue is that most homeowners would only consider replacing their existing boiler when it is beyond repair. In these distress purchase situations, the householder is unlikely to have the time or be in the right frame of mind to consider alternative technologies, OFTEC has argued.

The association’s concerns about possible low take-up of RHI are reinforced by the findings of a recent report commissioned by the government, entitled ‘Homeowners’ Willingness To Take Up More Efficient Heating Systems’, which looked at the heating systems that people would favour under RHI. Just 6% of those questioned would opt for renewable technologies and the majority (81%) would make no change to their current heating system.

To help reduce the UK’s carbon footprint, OFTEC has promoted the use of a bio-liquid fuel called B30K for oil-fired homes, which is a blend of FAME bio-fuel (30%) and kerosene (70%). B30K has not yet been accepted by the government as eligible for RHI in England and Wales, although it is under consideration for the RHI scheme in Northern Ireland. According to OFTEC, switching from kerosene to B30K could cut CO2 emissions in the average oil-heated home by nearly 30%.

Jeremy Hawksley, director general of OFTEC, said:

“We suggest a more stepped transition to low-carbon heat which would see hybrid, or bivalent, solutions with oil or bio-liquid condensing boilers working in tandem with heat pumps. This option is recognised in the RHI although only the renewable element of the heat will be grant aided, and the high capital cost of the renewable equipment will deter the vast majority of homeowners.

“Hybrid systems, too, would be much more palatable to the consumer with minimal disruption as existing radiators can be used.

“The domestic RHI needs to be re-designed to focus on a phased approach to decarbonising home heating. Only this will get public support and ensure that we successfully reduce the UK’s carbon footprint.”