The bigger picture - heat pump trends for 2017 Simon Lomax discusses the potential impact of the revised Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) In December, the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published its long-awaited res
-ponse to the March 2016 Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) consultation and revealed its proposals for the revi
-sed scheme, which is expected to launch in April.
The outlook for ground source heat pumps (GSHP) is promising and there is every reason to expect a substan
-tial increase in sales over the coming years.
Within the BEIS response is the encouraging statement that ‘The Government recognises that GSHPs are likely
to be a strategically important technology for decarbonising heat, and anticipates potential for significant growth
in deployment of this technology through the period to 2050.’
Of course,many observers would argue this vote of confidence is long overdue; the Committee for Climate Chan
-ge’s Fourth Carbon Budget called for 4 million heat pumps to be installed at residential properties by 2030.Righ
-t now,the UK’s heat pump estate numbers no more than 200,000 installations and deployment has remained sta
-tic over the past few years at around 18,000 units per annum.
Against this backdrop, some targeted action from Government and innovative approaches from industry is clearly
necessary to deliver the 2030 and 2050 carbon targets:
The RHI and one-off domestic properties Most commentators believe that action needs to be a blend of ‘carrot’ and ‘stick’ measures and Government has
finally conceded that the ‘carrots’ delivered via the RHI have to be awarded to the most deserving cases. For this
reason, the revised RHI will introduce a heat demand limit which will decrease returns for installations at large
country homes and focus more spend on smaller dwellings.
Right to Build Act The Government is keen to boost housebuilding and improve affordability,thus introducing the Right to Build Act in
October 2016. Local Authorities now have a legal duty to make sufficient plots available to meet demand on their
Right to Build register.The custom and self build sector is forecast for huge growth -research commissioned by the
National Custom and Self Build Association shows that 53% of people would like to build their own home at some
stage, with 1 million wanting to get started in the next 12 months. With the domestic RHI available to 2021, ground
source heat pump installers are set for a prosperous future with the custom and self build sector.
District systems A big opportunity for GSHP sales will rest with installations that can qualify for the non-domestic RHI. Any installation
featuring an individual heat pump at two or more residential properties served by a common ground array will qualify
as district heating and be eligible for the 20-year non-domestic RHI income stream. By installing a heat pump in ea-
ch dwelling, this removes the need for a plant room and provides each property with their own energy bill, allowing th
-em to switch suppliers at their will.
This system architecture will appeal particularly to social landlords, and new funding and fulfilment models should cr-
eate interest in both the new build sector and small retrofit community schemes.
BEIS expects significant uptake with the consultation response revealing ‘The Government is keen to support the de
-ployment of GSHPs making use of shared ground loops’. There are compelling reasons; communal ground arrays
are typically less expensive because it is usually possible to drill a smaller number of deeper boreholes,and they are
more reliable as you eliminate the risk of an exceptionally high heat use property exhausting its individual borehole.
To support shared ground loop deployment, the revised RHI will feature a very important refinement; for residential
district heating installations, RHI income will no longer be based upon metered heat consumption. Instead, the dee
-med heat consumption will be taken from the Energy Performance Certificate, which mirrors the established proto
-col for the domestic RHI.
This change is crucial. It will result in lower costs as there is no need to supply, install and maintain expensive meter
-ing/communications equipment. Further, it will be possible to establish the level of return at the outset of any project.
Most importantly, the returns will be appealing and far more generous than those under the 7-year domestic RHI
Carbon compliance Given the continued absence of any mandatory measures to demand the specification of heat pumps,the most nota
-ble ‘stick’ remains compliance with building regulations (for new builds and major renovations) or the need to meet
SAP rating targets for social housing stock. Here the news is helpful too. The Government is currently consulting on
possible changes to SAP and has proposed some significant changes to the carbon emission factors linked to
various fossil fuels.
The carbon intensity of electricity has been falling because of the increasing influence of renewable sources and the
reduced reliance on coal in the generation mix. These lower factors will significantly improve the SAP rating whene-
ver a heat pump is installed so the technology will be viewed more favourably by architects and energy consultants.
All in all there has never been a better time to embrace ground source heat pumps, especially as the increasing heat
-ing oil price over the past few months has again focussed interest on the technology.
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