Opinion

Making the most of RHI

Robert Burke

Although much attention has been placed on the level of installations which will be supported by the domestic RHI, legacy applications can also be made until 09 April 2015, explains Robert Burke, HETAS

Now that the domestic RHI is here, we need to make sure we’re making the most of it. Having waited for so long it seems slightly surreal that the system is now in place. Reports are that the take up so far has been slow, but then the take up at the start of the non domestic RHI was also slow, but accelerated to become a great success. We expect to see the same pattern in the domestic sector, and both installers and manufacturers have been putting the necessary MCS approvals in place to take advantage of the new business opportunities.

Customers who installed a renewable heating system before the RHI was launched on 09 April 2014 may also be eligible for payments under the scheme. These are known as legacy applicants, and includes individuals and organisations who received the Renewable Heat Premium Payment (RHPP). At the time of writing OFGEM has approved over 500 legacy applications, and their enquiry line has been busy with calls from both consumers and industry. At this stage enquiries are split almost equally between biomass, heat pumps and solar thermal. The published figures of MCS installations show that biomass is now the second most regularly installed technology after heat pumps, so there is very clear potential for biomass to become one of the top two heating technologies under RHI.

There are some subtle differences for RHI legacy applicants in that the heating system doesn’t need to meet current MCS standards as long as it was MCS certified at the time of commissioning. Biomass systems don’t need to be metered for payment if it’s not sized to heat the entire property, and it doesn’t need to meet the air quality requirements which installations after 09 April 2014 must do. Legacy applicants have the benefit of being protected from tariff reductions if at any stage the government decides to change these due to budget constraints for the RHI scheme.

The timing of applications has been phased as the government expects large numbers of households to apply. Customers who didn’t receive RHPP funding can apply immediately, including those who received RHPP vouchers but didn’t use them. RHPP recipients who applied for funding prior to 20 May 2013 can apply for RHI funding from 09 July 2014, and those who applied for RHPP funding after 20 May 2013 can apply for RHI support from 09 October 2014. Legacy applicants must apply to join RHI before 09 April 2015.

The great thing about allowing legacy applications is that all those installers and customers who were forward thinking enough to anticipate the domestic RHI will be able to benefit from payments. There is great potential for the scheme with over 100,000 Green Deal assessments which have already been undertaken, and which are the pre-requisite for householders joining the scheme. There are over 600 biomass MCS approved products, and the majority of these are also registered with the RHI Emissions Certificate online database which HETAS is maintaining as part of the scheme and which can be accessed online at www.rhieclist.org.uk. Installers and businesses are also getting on board with the scheme, but more MCS applicants will be needed as and when demand increases, as it did with the non domestic RHI.

We’ve recently streamlined the MCS application process for installers. The network of HETAS approved training centres has also been expanded to meet demand, and HETAS offers a combined competent persons and MCS registration package which is financially very attractive for installers.