Plumbing Trade Supplies (PTS) Renewables has called on the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to reveal further details on the domestic renewable heat incentive (RHI), ahead of its imminent launch.

Talking to Solar Power Portal, Maxine Frost, director of renewables and Kevin Lucas, national sales manager of renewables, said that the lack of concrete details from DECC is currently dampening industry’s enthusiasm for the scheme.  

At the moment, the only date that DECC has given the industry is the promise that the scheme will be introduced in Spring 2014.

Frost explained: “I think our customers are concerned about re-applying for MCS accreditation, paying for membership of trade bodies etc. without any firm date or commitment from the department.”

Frost added that, when viewed objectively, the domestic RHI represents an “excellent opportunity” for installers. She continued: “If DECC gives us a date, we know what we’re working with; we are ready to go, suppliers are ready to go and installers want to make that start but we just need that encouragement.”

Both Frost and Lucas agree that the domestic RHI holds real potential for all renewable installers, especially solar PV installers. Lucas explained: “Exploring the domestic RHI is in solar PV installers’ own interest. If they have MCS accreditation already, it’s not much of move to go from PV to solar thermal, maybe even to heat pump – it makes sense to move into that market.”

Frost added: “I think installers have to diversify in order to maximise the opportunity. The thing with RHI is that you need to capture the whole opportunity because that allows you to widen your portfolio. Say for example, you’re talking to a rural farmer in an off-gas area you really want to be able to offer biomass, rather than just the solar opportunity.”

One of the common criticisms levelled at the domestic RHI is the inclusion of a mandatory Green Deal assessment. A number of installers have warned that consumers are deterred by the Green Deal, illustrated by the drop in renewable heat premium payment (RHPP) applicants when the assessment was introduced, despite the fact that the payment was doubled.

However, both Frost and Lucas agree that the linking with the Green Deal is not necessarily a major deterrent and could even work to help installers. Frost said: “In between the RHPP payment concern around Green Deal assessments and the RHI there has been a lot of ECO assessments. Through ECO funding people are used to having to have an assessment. This got the installer base thinking about that and got them working with assessors, and actually when you have a lot of assessors in the market because of the ECO funding, it is not a big step for them to get retrained as a Green Deal assessor.”

Lucas encouraged the industry to embrace the benefits of the mandatory assessment: “Installers should put a positive spin on the requirement  yes, they have to pay for an assessment but just look at what that opens up; they don’t have to have recommended measures done but it really opens up all the measures that can be done to help improve a household’s energy performance.”

Frost added: “I’m quite hopeful that the Green Deal assessment requirement is a positive thing because it gives the end user a view of professionalism that the job has been done properly, rather than ‘a here today gone tomorrow scheme’.”

Despite a number of unknowns and entrenched industry scepticism, PTS remains optimistic over the potential of the domestic RHI. “We are incredibly excited  all business plans are ready, we’ve been talking to all our installers now in order to ready and educate them but we really need that announcement,” noted Frost.   

Lucas concluded: “It all goes back to the lack of announcement; you can go out and you can promote the RHI and raise awareness to the end user but if you don’t actually know when you can actually implement it, that makes a real difference.”