Solar thermal systems make slow progress under RHI

The latest government figures for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) have shown small solar thermal systems accounted for just 2% of non-domestic applications, while the technology fared better in the domestic market at 12%.

The non-domestic RHI has been available since November 2011 and has seen 276 applications from solar thermal schemes smaller than 200kW up until December last year. The technology has been dwarfed by applications for other technologies on the scheme, with applications for small biomass boilers reaching 12,631, accounting for 83% under the scheme.

Solar thermal has fared better under the domestic scheme which opened to homeowners in April 2014. However, there had only been 2,129 solar thermal accreditations by December 2015, which the Solar Trade Association (STA) says only represents less than a quarter of the solar thermal market recorded in 2010.

The STA claims the long delay in introducing the scheme and the red tape surrounding deployment could be responsible for the low figures, but claims the solar thermal industry is showing signs of improvement.

Leonie Greene, head of external affairs at the STA said: “Despite solar thermal not having fared well over the past few years, there are good signs that public understanding of this technology and interest in the RHI is increasing. We are encouraged that solar thermal is already showing signs of significant recent growth.”

The RHI is currently undergoing a period of change under plans announced by the government in last year’s spending review. Funding for the scheme is due to reach £1.15 billion in 2021 but it will also be reformed to deliver savings of almost £700 million by the same year.

“The government has rightly recognised the need to do much more to boost renewable heat in the UK. The Renewable Heat Incentive is the key driver for this, and the government needs to do more to communicate this programme and remove red tape. It is taking some time for the market to develop but we are urging them to stick with the programme and work with industry to communicate the tremendous benefits of solar thermal,” Greene added.