• April 9, 2014 - Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive Released - Solar Thermal has got the great government funding through the Domestic RHI which it deserves! Solartwin Solar Thermal panels have just become not only a cost cutting and very green option to heat your water but now you will receive additional... More →
  • November 6, 2013 - Notice to Solartwin customers - Letter's from Stenfield & Co - A number of Solar Twin Ltd customers have been in touch this week to query a letter they have received from legal firm Stenfield & Co. - The content relates to Solar Twin Ltd's liquidation, and claims that customers "undoubtedly paid more than... More →
  • July 12, 2013 - Renewable Heat Incentive Updated - Solar Thermal to have Heavy Support - The Government have today released the Renewable Heat Incentive: The first step to transforming the way we heat our homes. If you are looking to buy a SolarTwin System contact Genfit. "the scheme will be open to anyone in these groups who installed... More →
  • May 27, 2013 - DECC announce they are doubling the RHPP grant for solar thermal from £300 to £600 - Solar Thermal Panels Receive Huge Renewable Heat Premium Payment - Solar Thermal has received a huge boost, it's a great time to buy a Solartwin Product. - Greg Barker tweeted about the scheme - - Big uplift for #RHPP Vouchers to put a shot in the... More →
  • February 14, 2013 - Solartwin DIY reviews - SolarTwin Reviews from Reviewcentre - "Review Centre is a community of real people, just like you, sharing their product and service experiences. - Our community of reviewers are a passionate bunch who want to help you discover what's right for... More →
  • January 17, 2013 - Crackdown on aggresive solar selling - YouGen, a leading consumer body serving the renewable and energy efficiency sectors, is calling for a change in the law after a review by the Office of Fair Trading revealed unscrupulous selling tactics by solar and other energy efficiency... More →

News and comment: Will UK’s proposed domestic RHI be good news for the green consumer?

Filed under: Latest News

The domestic RHI – will it be good for UK’s green consumers?

The quick answer is not in the RHI’s current form. There are several major issues here, some of which are being overlooked by mainstream press who are recycling renewable energy industry PR type press releases, rather than seeking hard evidence. Here goes…

Will solar thermal get money parity with PV subsidy?

The UK has committed in a statement to Europe to a balanced renewables market, but is this really happening? Solar PV’s are getting 8-10% Return on investment (RoI) under the Feed in Tariff Scheme (FIT) which is 65% more generous than Germany’s FIT scheme. Solar thermal now looks like it will get only 5%. Consequently if / when the RHI happens next year most solar panels bought will be solar PV, not solar thermal, even though solar PV (without subsidy) is less cost-effective and takes 5 years to reach energy breakeven while solar thermal installation only take 2 years, according to a Bath University study on Solartwin.

If consumers want low environmental impact solar panels ideally they should start with solar thermal, not PV. But subsidies and politicians are fickle. And consumers, thankfully, are canny. Anyway we sell PV. Of course we advise people to dash for PV’s, while the party is still raucous and while the subsidy is still absurdly generous, as 43p per unit, index linked for 25 years!

The international Legionella safety cover-up.

Legionella safety affects stored hot water in heat pumps and solar thermal. There are installations which are far safer that today’s twin coil solar cylinders. Yet the renewables industry is blocking prompt change in both UK and in Europe. Perhaps consumers should be offered different safety levels of installations by all installers? Safety-wise, currently there are 3 main plumbing options available;

1/ “heat to base” solar installations which are as safe as most existing plumbing.

2/ “twin coil solar cylinders” aka “don’t heat to base” solar installations which are 10 times less safe than most existing plumbing.

3/ “thermal store” solar installations which are about 10 times safer than most existing plumbing.

As a supplier of heat to base solar thermal systems, we have even been blocked for grants for doing so and faced warning (in writing) by a (past) Solar Trade Association Chief Executive to shut up on this matter. Here is a video on the topic of solar and legionella.

Performance information missing / or even wrong.

Will the solar heating consumer be given the wrong performance information – or perhaps not enough? I suspect both will happen. The Microgeneration Certification Scheme (document MCS MIS 3001) requires gross heat energy rather than net heat energy to be quoted. So what?

In fact net energy should be quoted (heat minus parasitic electrical use). What is this parasitic electrical use? About 5-10% of the energy gained by s solar thermal system is negated by its pump using “parasitic” electricity. Converted into carbon impact this is a 10-25% carbon clawback according to EST and DTI research – two separate studies. Consumers are not told this.

As a supplier of PV pumped (zero carbon operation) systems we have been warned (in writing) by a (past) Solar Trade Association Chief Executive to shut up on this matter. Here is a video on the topic. The whole microgeneration industry needs to be more transparent about performance.

Fraud against the UK state?

Will the British state be defrauded as a consequence by DECC paying out for energy that most solar heating consumers (ie with mains pumped solar water heating systems) do not actually get. We have raised the potential of millions of pounds of RHI fraud with both DECC and our MP.

Ubiquitous false claims for solar thermal persist.

We have notified dozens of false solar heating performance claims, including by STA and REAL Code Members, to the REAL code. These claims include: “free hot water’, ‘free energy’ and ‘virtually zero carbon’. Clearly these claims are dubious. REAL is an industry-funded scheme even though it supposedly a consumer code. It has done little or nothing to stop these claims. We have now passed them to The ASA for adjudication. Here is a link.

The air quality and woodstoves challenge.

The UK Department of the Environment (DEFRA) appears worried about wood stoves being supported under the RHI in urban areas. After all, London is facing prosecution for breaching EU air quality guidelines. If urban green consumers really want to protect their environment they need to think carefully about installing wood stoves. Too many will kill asthmatics and old people. Wood stoves may be best deployed outside towns.

Heat pump sustainability / electrical generating infrastructure.

Some heat pumps have a worse carbon footprint than condensing boilers, according to data contained in the recent EST report on them. This then begs a few questions…

Should condensing boilers be defined as renewable energy? Why are heat pumps defined as renewable energy? Heat pumps have a coefficient of performance of about 3 (some worse, some better) while solar thermals’ is far better at about 12 (or infinite for PV pumped systems like Solartwin.) Should heat pumps only be used to displace high carbon fuels, ie used in off gas-grid areas where coal, oil or LPG / bottled gas are used? The relatively high carbon impact of heat pumps is because they use considerable amounts of mains electricity – which is generated remotely at only about 30% efficiency. So canny heat pump consumers can see why an onsite gas boiler working at 90% efficiency has a similar performance! The environmental success of a huge rollout of heat pumps is predicated on a correspondingly decarbonisation of the electricity grid in the next 10-20 years. How? By introducing renewables? Or nuclear?

Then there is the inconvenience that the national grid may collapse in winter, due to loads of homes having heat pumps chugging away, and at a proposed 12% RHI RoI subsidy level this is quite likely to happen. Plus – the RHI may even require heat pump users to have no standby heating because of a “boiler out” rule proposed for RHI! Brrrr.

If the RHI is to suit the green consumer (rather than the consumer of money or of the environment), more than a tweak or two may have to be made…

Regards, Barry.


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Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive Released

Solar Thermal has got the great government funding through the Domestic RHI which it deserves! Solartwin Solar Thermal panels have just become not only a cost cutting and very green option to heat your water but now you will receive additional funding too! The Domestic RHI rates – Released April 2014 Ofgem have produced a […]

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