Tuesday, May 29, 2012

£10 million for renewable heating for social housing tenants

installing solar water heating modules on a roof

Social housing landlords can now apply for grants of up to £175,000 to install solar hot water panels, heat pumps and biomass boilers into the homes of their tenants.

It follows the launch of a second round of the Renewable Heat Premium Payment (RHPP) scheme by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), with a total budget of £10 million.

It is expected that around 60 projects will win funding across England, Scotland, and Wales. Good news as it is, the budget will only benefit about 5,000 individuals, however, just 0.1% of the 3.9 million who live in social housing. The vast majority of these households live in fuel poverty and would welcome this type of help.

A further scheme targeted at communities who want to develop district renewable heating schemes will be launched later in the summer; interested participants can register for details here for when the announcement is made.

The closing date for applications for this round is July 4 and it is running on a first-come first-served basis; once the budget for the scheme is reached then applications will no longer be considered.

Eligible technologies include biomass boilers, solar thermal panels, ground source heat pumps, air-to-water heat pumps and water-to-water heat pumps.

“Last year our low carbon heating scheme for social landlords helped nearly 1000 householders stay warm and reap the benefits of clean, green heat,” said Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker. “This year we have increased the cash available, which will help even more people move away from expensive old heating systems to low carbon, more sustainable alternatives.”

In the opening round last year, 37 social housing providers received a total of nearly £4.4 million. Only two of these were in Scotland and three in Wales. The rest were in England. One social landlord, New Linx Housing Trust, even received two grants. Just eleven received the total amount possible of £175,000.

Air source heat pumps were the most popular technology, probably because they are easiest to install. They represented 35% of installations, with solar water heating systems coming second at 33%. 19% of installations were ground source heat pumps and just 13% biomass boilers.

However, there are question marks over the efficiency of air source heat pumps compared to other forms of renewable heat.  In some circumstances they can cost more and emit more carbon than the form of heating that they may replace.

The scheme was welcomed by Philip Sellwood, Chief Executive of the Energy Saving Trust, which manages it and will evaluate the bids for funding. He said that it “offers real value to tenants as not only does it help them save money on their energy bills, but also helps them to reduce their energy usage”.

Criteria for funding include value for money, the type of fuel being replaced (with high carbon polluting fuel favoured), the presence of loft insulation to 250mm and cavity wall insulation (where practical), and the organisation's track record on delivering similar projects.

Those who have recently removed a mains gas heating system or currently heat their home with mains gas are only eligible to apply for solar thermal.

The amount of funding depends on the type of technology to be implemented:
TechnologyVoucher Value
Solar Thermal Hot Water£300 
Air-to-Water Heat Pump£850
Ground-Source or Water-Source Heat Pump£1250
Biomass boiler£950

Vincent Wedlock-Ward, Project Officer at Southern Housing Group (Isle of Wight Region), a previous social landlord competition winner, said that they received £175,000 from DECC under last year’s RHPP scheme. "This helped us replace old overnight storage heating systems with air source heat pumps for 40 householders living off the gas grid. Without this funding, this would not have been possible".

She reported that residents with the air source heat pumps fitted have found that their bills have been cut by half.

A programme of seminars is touring the country to explain what the scheme entails to local authorities and housing associations.

There is also an advice line on 0800 512 012 for more information. Winners will know whether they have been successful in early August.

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