Kelly Butler, British Electroctechnical & Allied Manufacturers' Association's (BEAMA) marketing director, explains the association's vision for renewable heat zones.

BEAMA has warmly welcomed DECC’s launch of the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) package, but the announcement is not the total solution to market growth.

We are now calling on DECC and industry peers to support BEAMA's renewable heat zone (RHZ) vision bringing together a broad range of supply chain partners, and lead authorities, to deliver regional five year growth plans.

During this summer, we are developing proposals for DECC and call for concerted efforts to make RHZ a reality by the launch of the next energy network price review period starting in 2015.

This follows a BEAMA meeting last year, which DECC attended, at which it was suggested that the government was exploring the opportunities for developing ‘Renewable Hubs’, under which there would be the over-riding objectives for ‘areas of mass deployment’.

Discussions with some BEAMA members and outside influencers suggested this is a sound idea, but may need tuning to be an all encompassing and market-stimulating activity.

Despite the policy weight there are some practical issues that may be alleviated by the development of RHZ:

An RHZ would operate similarly, but on a voluntary basis. In principle, the lead authority/body in an RHZ would work with the above supply chain actors to formulate a 3-5 year plan for renewable heat growth.

Within this plan there would be absolute targets for renewable heat deployment based on an understanding of the RHZ customer/dwelling types and propensity for take up. For example, an objective may be to install 30,000 heat pumps in the RHZ over three years.

This type of objective gives confidence to installers that a market is planned; provides an impetus for marketing effort; gives planning signals to the network operator to channel business plan funding under ED1; brings energy suppliers to the fore with tariffs; shines a light on training and certification hot spots; creates positive customer perceptions in the area; allows merchants and others to channel their support.

The practicality is that such an approach can require ‘seed corn’ funding to kick-start the project, which may subsidise initial resources required e.g. co-ordinator on the ground, marketing etc.

BEAMA members are actively discussing the operational details for RHZs, addressing how such an idea would stimulate growth and channel resources; would a levy approach be workable; how could the RHZTrust be set-up; delivery options. Also, looking at other key issues including: other models which can channel resource more effectively; DECC support and nature of that support; ensuring this process is kept open and not anti-competitive.