RHI can only help the heat-pump market

Feta, renewable energy, Heat Pump Association, HPA
Ground-source heat-pump technology to provide heating and cooling for the headquarters of VolkerFitxpatrick in Hoddesdon achieved an average COP of 6.27 over a 7-month trial period and as high as 7.14 when recovering heat from areas needing cooling to serve areas needing heating. The installation comprises 36 boreholes 100 m deep and seven Mitsubishi Electric City Multi WR2 condensing units.

Heat pumps can deliver renewable energy 24/7, and there are few heating and cooling applications that cannot benefit from this technology. And with the Renewable Heat Incentive about to come into effect, the market is poised to grow faster than ever. Terry Seward puts heat pumps into context.

Even before the details of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) were announced, the heat-pump market was growing apace. Over 200 000 heat pumps were sold in the non-domestic market in 2010, and 18 000 are expected to be sold in the domestic market in 2011 — up from 7000 sold in 2008. Customers are obviously buying in to this technology in a big way, but, once all the incentives come into play the market will fly!

Because heat pumps supply more energy than they consume by extracting heat from their surroundings they now form an essential part of the solution for reducing both energy consumption and carbon emissions. They can also provide their heat from renewable sources such as the ground and solar-heated ambient air. Heat pumps are an efficient and space-saving means of heating a wide range of premises. They can also provide cooling to these premises should there be the requirement.

There are few heating and cooling applications that cannot benefit from heat-pump technology and, in doing so, deliver significant energy efficiencies.

Heat-pump technology can be used in applications as diverse as space heating (or cooling) for human comfort in offices, homes and all kinds of residential installations. They can also be found in applications for process drying, swimming pools and factory production processes.

Heat pumps are available to claim free or waste heat from a number of places and deliver that heat to air or water, as summarised in the table.

Most of the genres above can also be utilised for both domestic and non-domestic (commercial and industrial) buildings.

Heat pumps have for several years been considered by the Government as one of the solutions for a sustainable future as they are both a low-carbon technology and a renewable-heat technology under EU Directive for the Promotion of Energy from Renewable Sources (RES), when utilising the solar-heated ground, ambient air, and water as a heat source.

Under the framework of the RES the previous Government announced its intention to implement the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme for consumers and businesses investing and operating renewable heat (and power) technologies.

The coalition Government has now made a firm commitment to the RHI, and it will go ahead from July 2011 for non-domestic installations only. This scheme is a world first, and the Government should be commended on this. It is also, in principle, a structure that the Heat Pump Association can strongly support.

Feta, renewable energy, Heat Pump Association, HPA

Ground-source heat pumps are included in the RHI from the start, although the tariff rates are slightly lower than in the initial consultation document. This may help to restart the ex low-carbon building programme phase two market which was brought to a halt many months ago by the cancellation of financial support.

Compliance with the Microgeneration Certification Scheme will be required for heat pumps with a heat output of up to 45 kW. This requirement endorses the rigour that this scheme, which the HPA supports and helped to create, brings to the supply chain at this level of installation. MCS is not, however, required above 45 kW heat output, which is sensible as it acknowledges that the industry is wider than just microgeneration and has its own existing professional competence base in a fairly mature market.

Domestic installations are, unfortunately, not in the RHI in 2011 but are scheduled to be in from October 2012 (alongside the Green Deal). However, air-source heat pumps will receive an RHI Premium Payment of about £850 to bridge the gap between July 2011 and October 2012 when domestic installations enter into the RHI proper. Domestic heat pumps qualifying for Premium Payments will also qualify for RHI in 2012.

On the minus side it is disappointing that the domestic market will not be included in the RHI from the start, and we feel this is short-sighted as this is the sector that requires a catalyst right now and that without it the domestic market for heat pumps and other microgeneration technologies could stall.

There will be certain conditions to these premium payments, and heat pumps installed will probably need to be fitted with a means to meter the heat produced.

The 2011 start date for RHI excludes air-source heat pumps of all types for non-domestic buildings as DECC (Department for Energy & Climate Change) wishes to gather more information on these products. We are particularly disappointed that air-to-water installations are not eligible from day one as their measurement requirements are not much different to ground source.

On the plus side we fully expect air-source heat pumps to be included in 2012.

Although the non-domestic tariffs have been declared for those technologies eligible from 2011, the RHI tariff for domestic installations in 2012 has not yet been declared. However, we understand there will be a consultation on this in the Autumn of 2011.

Terry Seward is secretary of the Heat Pump Association. The HPA is an incorporated association of the Federation of Environmental Trade Associations (FETA).

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