RHI - the latest casualty of war over energy efficiency

To the outside world the UK appears visionary, yet a culture of criticism is leading us to miss out on vital opportunities. RHI, a scheme which provides payments to industry, businesses and public sector organisations who generate and use renewable energy to heat their buildings, has become the latest casualty.

I recently returned from a trip to Asia visiting suppliers, engineers and designers of both new and emerging renewable energy technologies. It is always a real eye-opener to meet those at the forefront of these types of innovations and to examine models we can bring back to our own customer base.

But what often strikes me on these trips is how other countries view the UK. To the outside world the UK appears visionary and I am frequently asked what it’s like to be part of the energy efficient sector here. The reality, sadly, is very different.

What we see time and time again in this country is that any new initiative or innovative and courageous policy will be met with a wall of criticism. The policies and ideas are mercilessly pulled apart. When placed under so much pressure and in the face of such criticism, they then end up coming up short.

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) has become the latest casualty and it’s bitterly disappointing. The scheme was due to be extended to residential markets this summer but this has now been pushed back until spring 2014. To cover the gap, the Renewable Heat Premium Payment (RHPP) scheme – covering biomass boilers, solar thermal panels and heat pumps - will now run until March 2014, but this offers little in the way of consolation.

Pressure continues to be piled on the government to scale back its energy efficiency policies and initiatives, but this is dangerously short sighted. Scientific instruments show that the average daily level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has now reached above 400 parts per million. This makes a clear statement to the world that even though we are starting to act, we need to accelerate our reduction of CO2 emissions. This is critical for the UK and the planet as a whole.

The emergence and growth of the solar market was criticised, but it has gone on to create a thriving industry and is starting to make an impact on carbon emissions. RHI could in the same way be very good for the residential sector. It encourages the combination and use of different technologies and this is an important shift in mindset. It stops any lurching from one technology to the next, and instead encourages a whole house approach to energy efficiency.

RHI could work like solar and grow its own strong industry, creating jobs and reducing fossil fuel reliance in the process. It’s true that with solar there were stumbling blocks along the way and lessons were not learnt early enough - but they have been now.

Delaying RHI is simply a huge, missed opportunity.