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Renewable Heat Incentive reforms come into force

Posted by Sam Tonge on 16 May 2018 at 9:31 am

During February 2018, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published a second round of draft regulations which covered plans to reform aspects of both the Domestic and Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) schemes.

It's been announced this week that these reforms have been approved following a debate in Parliament, and are to come into force on 22 May 2018. As expected, these changes include the introduction of an Assignment of Rights, mandatory electricity metering for heat pump technology, changes to degression rules and new enforcement powers for Ofgem.

The RHI is a scheme designed to pay homeowners and businesses for heat produced from their renewable sources of energy. The scheme is designed to incentivise the switch to greener heating systems is designed to help the UK reduce its carbon emissions and meet its renewable energy targets.

In this article we look at how the acceptance of these proposed changes will affect users of the domestic RHI, i.e. homeowners and landlords.


 Introduction of Assignment of Rights (AoR)

This option is designed to help householders overcome the need to find the funds to pay for a renewable heating system upfront. Through an AoR, an investor can fund the purchase, installation and maintenance of a system, in exchange for receiving the householder’s or landlord’s RHI payments.

Although expensive to install, renewable heat technologies can be a desirable and good investment as a result of the RHI payments as well as savings on fuel costs (depending on the fuel to be replaced).  If your fuel costs with a renewable heating system would be higher than the system currently installed (likely if you currently heat your home with mains gas) please do think carefully before entering into an AoR as your bills will go up and you will not receive the RHI payments to counter the impact of this.

The draft regulations stated that the introduction of an AoR will come into effect on 27 June 2018. It will be interesting to see how many investors take up this opportunity and market an offer and likewise, what the uptake from householders will be.


Introduction of mandatory electricity metering for heat pumps

As set out in the new  regulations , all new applications for the Domestic RHI scheme will be required to have dedicated electricity metering arrangements installed with their air or ground source heat pump.

This will help households monitor the performance of their heat pump and to provide a better understanding of the heat pump system’s electricity usage as not all installed heat pumps have been working as efficiently as they should. Enhanced monitoring of ground and air source heat pump efficiency will also help to improve the development of the technologies.

Consumers can choose between electricity meters, on-board electricity meters, or a Metering and Monitoring Service Package (MMSP) for their heat pump.

Note: This change will also apply to those domestic properties on shared ground loop systems that benefit from the non-domestic RHI.


Changes to degression rules

Degression is used by Ofgem to manage the RHI budget through lowering of tariff rates on new applications, if uptake of the RHI for that technology is higher than anticipated. The previous rules have allowed degression to occur, even when there has only been limited uptake of the scheme.

This includes revision of the degression thresholds to 2020/21 as well as amending the methodology used to calculate the amount the RHI should have degressed. The new rules aim to ensure growth is always taken into account, meaning degression will no longer be able to occur when the number of accreditations for a particular technology has been lacklustre.


Extra enforcement powers

Ofgem administrator both the domestic and non-domestic RHI scheme. These changes will provide Ofgem with further powers as well as clarification of their existing powers.

These powers include (but are not limited to) ensuring grant funding received post-accreditation is deducted from future payments, as well as the ability to withhold payments for a MMSP in cases of non-compliance, and to reject applications where it is not fully satisfied that the installation will operate within ongoing obligations set out within the scheme.  

Enforcement provisions have been amended to make it clearer where Ofgem can impose sanctions for non-compliance, putting a greater onus on participants to show evidence that their installation complies.  

Ofgem have also been granted new powers where they have been refused access to a site, and to ban applicants from the scheme where they have been misled. Ofgem have also received clarification that they can carry out an unannounced audit on an RHI participant, as and when required.


Some concluding thoughts

It’s encouraging to see a stronger degression mechanism in place to ensure a fairer tariff rate is implemented to applicants depending on the number of accreditations. It’s also helpful that homeowners with a heat pump will now have to have an electricity meter installed (as it will be a useful asset helping them to monitorand understand its electricity consumption).

The AoR is a novel way of allowing homeowners and landlords to enjoy the feel-good factor of green heating, unaccompanied by the upfront installation cost. However, this will of course mean there is less of a financial reward for them, as all payments would be made to the investor. The worry is that some householders will pay higher energy bills with no RHI to help compensate them for this.

If you’re thinking if installing a renewable heating technology to receive the RHI, the rate of payment you’re on upon applying will remain locked in for you during the seven years you benefit from the scheme.

Will you be affected by any of the above changes? Let us know in the comments section.


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Image credit: 51% Studios Architecture. ASHP at Dungeness, Kent.   

About the author:

Sam has contributed to our blog since 2016 and previously worked for the National Energy Foundation.

He became interested in green energy after completing a degree in Geography (BSc) at Royal Holloway, University of London. 

Sam is passionate about renewable energy and is committed to spreading the word about the role it plays in delivering environmental sustainability. 

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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2 comments - read them below or add one


nakedplumberComment left on: 1 June 2018 at 3:24 pm

Having terminated my solar water heating distribution and installation business in 2009, after building the business for 9 yrs, I am now very busy with my new patented PVT panel system, which in Europe, is attracting a lot of interest.

I attended the first IEA Task60 PVT 3 day work shop in Freiburg (16th to 18th May), where 50 manufacture representives along with research institutes and Universities persons.

I have been sent 17 of the presentations made over the 3 days, if anybody is interested.

With the UK haveing zero interest in PVT combi hybrid applications, as nobody has been willing to pay a high sum of money to a UK test institute, I am now moving to work with my partner in Switzerland, where over 56 installations are being monited by SPF

Regarding the updated RHI regs, none of this is of any interest to me, as my own installed solar water heating system I completed in 2002, has not been serviced since then, as we have nothing to service, as no glycol and no closed loop system, no drain back, just very simple direct plumbing of 44 heat pipe tube collectors into my China made open vented thermal store.

The proven sucess of my system, which dumps 6 months of wintered heated water into my radiators during the day, as I work and live at my home these days, is how I managed to cut my heating and hot water costs by 46%, with no gas boiler working since end of March to end of October

I cannot understand why anybody would enter into a RHI payment with so many regulations, paying £5,000 for a 200 litre tank of water heated by solar which shuts off at 65c?? how crazy is this, when one of my new solar heating/hot water systems that shuts down the heat pipe at 80c, will cost a self builder $2,300 + installation without any interference from the RHI regulations.

With falling PV and solar thermal sales, PVT is now the reconised future for both power and heat, but I only now focus on commercial sales


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JoeFergussonComment left on: 31 May 2018 at 12:31 pm

I write as a renewable energy technical consultant of 16 year's experience: My great fear about the Assignment of Rights feature is that its promoters have an incentive to supply installations that are RHI-eligible but not up to the standards of quality and integrity that a purchaser would normally insist on, so once the RHI has run its course many people will be left with poor quality systems which they regret and, in many cases, will remove after the seventh anniversary and revert to fossil fuels, whilst systems ought to have a service life of 15-20 years or more.

To combat this effect and the likely damage to the public acceptance of renewables technologies, there must be a public information campaign, perhaps driven by the Energy Saving Trust and Local Authorities/Trading Standards, which alerts people to this risk, tells them what to expect and what specification and design quality standards to demand of potential AoR suppliers, who must be required by MCS and Ofgem to have all potential customers declare that they have read a presrcibed information leaflet explaining these points.

This strategy should go some way to mitigating this major risk to the value-for-money of the RHI and the reputation of low carbon heating.

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