Last week marked 100 days since the launch of the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). On Wednesday 16 July, the All-Party Parliamentary Renewable & Sustainable Energy Group (PRASEG) held a seminar at the House of Commons to discuss the scheme's progress with industry and government representatives.
In the first seven weeks of opening, 1,000 installations were accredited on the Domestic RHI scheme, according to
In the first seven weeks of opening, 1,000 installations were accredited on the Domestic RHI scheme, according to Ofgem’s recent report. Most of these were air-source heat pumps (377), closely followed by solar thermal (277), biomass (249) and ground-source heat pumps (97).
Dave Sowden, chief executive of the Sustainable Energy Association, acknowledged that the initiative is still in its infancy. “Applications are going through relatively smoothly, but it’s very early days to tell whether that’s having significant impact on the market,” he said. “We took a straw poll of feedback from our members on 7 July and there were no reports of any significant changes in activity. Most enquiries are for information and nothing more serious.”
His thoughts were echoed by Dave Lacey, commercial director of heating and renewables at Daikin UK. “It is too early to tell anything," said Mr Lacey. "Back in 2009 when the RHI was first announced, it was much heralded and the industry accepted it as moving forward. Even before the scheme opened officially on 9 April, there was lots of discussion on Twitter and people were getting excited, but since then, it seems to have gone very quiet.”
One possible reason for things quieting down is poor consumer awareness, which was highlighted by the panel as a key issue.
“At the moment, awareness of the scheme is not terribly high among end users,” Mr Lacey continued. “There’s nothing ‘sexy’ about heating in your house. The only time people ever worry about it is when it breaks down; ordinarily it’s not at the front of their mind, and for that reason it’s quite a challenge. Manufacturers try and do it but there hasn’t been an overriding government campaign.”
Mr Lacey also observed that other schemes have received rather more publicity, including the recent Green Deal Home Improvement Fund (GDHIF). The GDHIF was promoted via the ‘Unmissable’ campaign, which aimed to inform people about the benefits of the fund and how to apply through posters, press adverts, radio and online coverage.
Mr Sowden similarly suggested that government bodies could have done more to incite interest in the Domestic RHI. Referring to SEA’s recent poll, he said: “People are generally positive that the scheme has been launched, but it was felt that the Department of Energy & Climate Change could have made more of a meal out of it – it was a bit low-key and therefore lack of consumer awareness was an issue.”
He added that installers, as "the first point of call", also need to be engaged for the scheme to be a success.
“Quite often neither the customer nor the installer recognises that they’re having a conversation about energy – they’re having a conversation about the fact that the boiler is making a horrible noise or they haven’t got any hot water. They’re talking about heating and not framing it as a wider energy discussion, and it’s a fantastic but missed opportunity.
“We’ve really got to find a way to get installers motivated to have a broader conversation with the customer, on the back of the heating system problem,” he said. “ The only way we’re going to do it is if that installer can make money out of it."