The Renewable Energy Association (REA) expects to receive proposals for the UK’s renewable heat incentive (RHI) later this week. The long-awaited enticement for UK residents to switch from fossil fuel heating to renewable sources will work in a similar way to the solar PV feed-in tariff, increasing the UK’s potential in the green sector.

Working to encourage the uptake of renewable heat sources, the RHI will support several technologies including biomass, heat pumps, deep geothermal, woodfuel burners, heat components of biomass CHP, biofuel heating, anaerobic digestion,(Biomethane) Green Gas injection to Gas Grid and of course solar thermal. The REA hopes the scheme will go live in June.

The Renewable Heat Incentive will offer premium payments to encourage the uptake of this wide range of technology, enabling the heating of homes, schools, public buildings and large offices/factories. The RHI will also help the UK to work towards the legally binding renewable energy target as well as carbon reduction targets as well as reducing the country’s dependence on imported natural gas.

Paid out of general taxation, anyone or any organisation who invests in eligible renewable heat technologies and who applies for support under the scheme will be eligible to benefit from the RHI.

The RHI will work by adopting ‘tariff’ principles, offering a fixed payment for every kilowatt hour (kWh) of renewable heat generated over the lifetime of the tariff. It currently applies to heat installations of all sizes – there is no upper limit – although the REA is concerned that solar thermal may be constrained. Renewable heat can be measured using a heat meter, just like electricity; however metering may not be appropriate in smaller domestic installations – where deemingis likely to be used instead (i.e. a standard payment, based on an estimate of the heat generated).  Safeguards will also be needed to ensure people do not waste metered heat.

Heat is by definition locally generated as it is expensive to transport heat long distances.  The RHI will therefore strongly compliment the development of local renewable power under the solar PV feed-in tariff.

At present, the UK’s heat is predominately supplied by fossil gas, accounting for 47% of the country’s CO2 emissions. The UK’s renewable heat industry currently makes up just 1% of the UK’s heat market. The RHI is aimed at boosting this percentage significantly.