2013 – What progress have we made?

Robert Burke, HETAS, reflects on a productive year and the improved outlook for the biomass sector

As we near the end of the year we start thinking about what next year is going to bring. It’s looking increasingly certain that the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive will be launched in spring 2014. This can only be good news for the biomass and renewable heating industry which until recently has been slightly in limbo waiting for a firm announcement on a launch date. Despite this uncertainty, 2013 has been a good year for the biomass industry, and we have made great progress in strengthening HETAS as the only dedicated competent person’s scheme for solid fuel and biomass.

A change in attitudes has meant that many consumers are starting to look at hybrid systems. The steady increase in oil, gas and electric energy prices has meant that householders are even more aware of their energy bills. Renewable forms of energy such as biomass, wind and solar are becoming even more popular as people look to minimise costs whilst reducing their carbon footprint. This shift in consumer behaviour has meant increasing demand for biomass installers, and also those who can design and install systems using more than one technology.

We are now more certain than before that the domestic RHI will be introduced next year, and HETAS biomass training courses are already in place for heating engineers who may have experience of oil or gas, but are looking to take advantage of the opportunities which RHI will create for biomass installations from next year. There will be no RHI payments for oil or gas installations, so adding a renewable technology to your existing skills could reap dividends in terms of new business. 

Although we have been uncertain of the RHI implementation date, at HETAS we have been gearing up to be ready for the new legislation when it comes. In 2013 we introduced a new technical helpline which has been invaluable for HETAS registered installers. The feedback has been extremely positive, and it’s another example of the support service that we offer alongside other technical information including the HETAS annual guide, and a technical handbook which we launched in the last 18 months.

A lot of the work we do at HETAS goes on behind the scenes, but it’s probably the unseen work that’s the most important! We represent the industry at both national and European level, and at the moment are working with OFGEM to make sure the RHI scheme works effectively for both installers and consumers. At a European level, we have been lobbying the European Commission on the Ecodesign and Ecolabelling projects. Much of the UK’s legislation is now determined at European level, and HETAS plays a crucial role in representing the views of the solid fuel and biomass industry to the European Commission.

All this progress in 2013 means that we are starting to see increasing interest in renewables, and biomass in particular. With the thought that the domestic RHI may be only three or four months away, now is the time to make sure that we have enough installers trained and registered with the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) so that the industry can continue growing and meet demand for renewable technologies.