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HomeBehaviour changeThe Cinderella of energy policy gets a boost with the launch of the Renewable Heat Incentive

The Cinderella of energy policy gets a boost with the launch of the Renewable Heat Incentive

Heat accounts for just under half of UK energy demand and for 46% of UK carbon emissions, but has long been the Cinderella of energy policy. When Green Alliance started working on heat five years ago, the amount of energy used for heating space and water wasn’t even reliably measured.

Since Green Alliance launched its manifesto for sustainable heat in 2007, interest in heat has grown; the last government produced eleven reports and consultations which confirmed the sector’s potential, but produced little in the way of action.

Now, after some delays, a financial incentive for green heat has finally been launched. From this week, non-domestic users including industry, public sector, small businesses and schools can claim the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) if they install technologies such as solar water heating, ground source heat pumps and biomass boilers. Small biomass systems – the most highly subsidised systems for the non-domestic sector – can earn up to 7.9p per KWH.

Householders will have to wait next year to be eligible for the scheme, but a test programme is already underway. A £15m short term grant scheme called the Renewable Heat Premium Payment was launched in August this year to offer vouchers towards the cost of renewable heat technology and to test the waters for the RHI.

However, DECC figures suggest that take-up has not been as high as government hoped. According to DECC, 4,094 vouchers have been issued so far, equivalent to £2.45m worth of grants. A further £4.2m is earmarked for social housing completion and £1.5m for additional metering. That leaves £6.85m in the pot still to be spent before the scheme closes at the end of the financial year

The launch of the RHI is great news, but government and others need to make sure that its delivered and communicated in a way that encourages take-up. For more on Green Alliance’s work on the RHI, see our past papers on how to maximise uptake for the scheme, how to make it more efficient and why renewable heat matters.

Written by

Sylvia was the editor of Green Alliance's blog from 2010 to April 2013. She is an assistant producer on Al Jazeera English's flagship environmental show, earthrise, and an award-winning print journalist who writes for publications including the Guardian, the Evening Standard and New Scientist. She was previously a policy adviser at Green Alliance.

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