Archive for August, 2010

Renewable Heat Incentive at risk of being shelved

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Originally scheduled for launch in the spring of 2011, the Renewable Heat Incentive may not see the light of day after the coalition Government announced that it might yet scrap the scheme.

In its current form, the Renewable Heat Incentive would provide around £825 per year to households that generate their own green heat using a range of green technologies including solar water heating collectors.

Taking the average UK household – which uses approximately 15,000kWh of heat each year – into consideration, the Renewable Heat Incentive as it exists today would pay £1,400 per year to the homeowner whose property generates 13,700kWh, with the 1,300kWh difference being filled through energy efficiency measures such as cavity wall and loft insulation.

Biomass boilers would be used under the scheme, however, annual biomass fuel costs could reach up to £575, resulting in a total benefit of £825 per year.

The Renewable Heat Incentive in its current form is clearly beneficial to homeowners who generate their own green heat energy.

Unfortunately, the scheme is likely to increase domestic gas bills by up to £104 (£321 for industrial consumers) by the end of the present decade.

The 40 per cent rise in energy bills could effectively put large industrial firms out of business according to a report in the Telegraph this morning.

Whilst opposing arguments concerning green tax schemes are anything but extraordinary, the Renewable Heat Incentive has faced criticism at a more fundamental level; indeed, a recent study by the Energy Saving Trust has questioned the benefits of using green pumps in central heating systems.

Although the Energy Saving Trust has yet to publish its report on the subject, it is understood that green pumps have been found to be only “variably” effective at heating homes and do not always save money or reduce carbon emissions.

In response to the Energy Saving Trust’s preliminary findings, the coalition Government has announced that it is likely to scrap or substantially change the Renewable Heat Incentive in its current form.

A spokesperson for the Energy Saving Trust said: “Out of 83 sites monitored across the UK during the trial, results indicated wide-ranging performance.

“We are aiming to work out what is causing this variation, focusing on exactly what determines a high-performing heat pump retrofit installation and ensure this becomes standard practice”.

Euroheat First to Launch TDA Thermodual Domestic Biomass Boiler

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Euroheat’s TDA Thermodual biomass boiler is quite unlike other central heating boilers on the UK market; in fact, according to Which?, Euroheat are the first company to bring the TDA Thermodual to the UK .

The TDA Thermodual, produced by SHT Austria, is designed to run on both wood pellets and wood logs – a combination that had proved ineffective until the launch of the TDA Thermodual, which can connect to central heating systems to provide an environmentally friendly source of heat and hot water requiring neither gas nor electricity for its power.

Standard features of the TDA Thermodual boiler include: fully-automatic ignition for wood pellets and logs; automatic operation selection (as in switching between pellets and logs) without change-over; automatic self-cleaning grate and a multi-flow air-valve system.

The biomass boiler also comprises a multi-function safety package that permanently checks the entire heating process and responds with immediate effect to any deviations.

Conveniently the unit features two fuel delivery systems: the flexible pellet screw conveying system and the flexible pellet suction conveying system.

The flexible pellet screw system is suitable for use with pellet storage rooms located next to the boiler room, whilst the flexible pellet suction system can be used to transport pellets from a basement storage room, fabric tank or an external terrestrial tank.

The TDA Thermodual boasts a gross efficiency rating of 93 per cent and a heat output ranging from 15kW to 38kW.

The biomass boiler can hold 130kg of pellets and is estimated to run for up to 36 hours on automatic operation.

A key selling point of the TDA Thermodual is it can be fuelled using waste wood but reverts to pellets when alternative supplies are exhausted.

Lizzy Ruffles of Which? advised: “If you’re not connected to the mains gas network, a wood heating system could be a good option for central heating and hot water if you don’t want to use electric storage heaters or an oil-powered boiler”.

The TDA Thermodual may also represent the first viable alternative to gas or oil-fired boilers in an environmental context, as the burning of biomass fuels is regarded as carbon neutral in so far as CO2 emissions are part of the current carbon cycle.

Baxi Calls for Wider Application of the CERT Scheme

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Baxi Group, which is one of the leading providers of domestic central heating systems, has urged a wider application of the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) Scheme to include whole home efficiency solutions that deliver carbon savings whilst helping to alleviate fuel poverty.

Simon Osborne

The CERT Scheme was introduced under the previous Labour Government in April 2008. CERT is essentially an energy and carbon saving scheme that applies only to the household sector. Under the CERT Scheme, energy suppliers are tied to a three-year (up to March 2011) obligation to meet household carbon saving targets. Such targets are relatively ambitious, yet suppliers can meet their objectives by promoting tried and trusted energy saving measures, including loft insulation, cavity wall insulation, eco-friendly lighting, energy-efficient central heating and so on. Earlier this month, Baxi called for a greater emphasis on whole home efficiency through the CERT Scheme.

The issue of fuel poverty is one that was given much attention at the beginning of the year, when Britain was gripped by one of its coldest winters on record; unfortunately, numerous households throughout the country continue to spend a substantial portion of their income on fuel bills, which could be reduced by up to £225 per year if energy saving measures are implemented.

Baxi Group’s Channel Specification Manager, Simon Osborne, said: “CERT is an important mechanism for delivering efficiency improvements in the home.

“Clearly, installing high efficiency appliances in leaky, poorly insulated dwellings is not the right approach.

“However, energy efficient boilers and microgeneration appliances in particular, should be playing a greater role as part of a co-ordinated CERT response which cuts carbon emissions within the whole building envelope.”

Mr Osborne added that it is also important for the Government and energy suppliers to address the targeting of the scheme by including more vulnerable households.

Mr Osborne concluded: “At present, the priority groups most likely to be affected by issues of fuel poverty are not receiving sufficient support through CERT”.

In the three-month period ending June 2010, CERT had delivered savings of 149 Mt CO2 – 81 per cent of its 185 Mt CO2 target; however, only 43 per cent of these savings were derived from target priority groups.

Private Companies Offer Free Rooftop Solar Panel Installations

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Many things in life are usually too good to be true and when someone offers something for nothing, there is normally a catch involved.

On this basis, companies such as Isis Solar, HomeSun and A Shade Greener may have a hard time convincing the general public that their business models are above board.

The firms are offering to install solar panels worth around £15,000 on homes at absolutely no cost to the homeowner; furthermore, households will benefit from onsite-generated electricity for the 25 years following installation.

By anybody’s standards, such a deal is the equivalent of something for nothing (save the odd cup of tea and mild inconvenience when the installers turn up).

The solar panel fitters aim to take advantage of the previous administration’s Feed-in-Tariffs, which provide cash for green energy exported to the National Grid.

In return for agreeing to house the solar panels for a 25-year period – the duration of time applicable to the Feed-in Tariffs – homeowners can use the electricity generated by the photovoltaic cells on their rooftops during the day.

HomeSun’s Bill Sneyd believes that most customers would save around 30 per cent on their existing electricity bills.

The solar firms will also maintain the solar panels over the 25-year agreement, which applies to the home and not the homeowner, whilst insuring the cells against theft, damage or vandalism.

After the 25-year period ends, customers would not receive any Feed-in Tariffs but it should still be possible to generate electricity for use in the home or to be exported back to the grid.

Not all homes in Britain will be able to avail of the solar panel incentive; HomeSun is only interested in houses as far north inland as Nottingham and Hull and Liverpool on the coasts.

Homes must also have sufficient roof space – around 30 square metres – that is south-facing, unshaded and pitched at 40 degrees or thereabouts. Solar Guide’s easy-to-use Solar PV Feed-in Tariff Calculator will show you exactly how many panels you can fit on your roof and the finacial benefits from the Feed-in Tariff that you would receive.

HomeSun install smaller systems for £500 at a monthly charge of £5 per month, which represents the loss of Feed-in Tariff income.

In return for spending £11,000-£16,000 on each household excluding maintenance, repairs, etc., the solar panel firms could net up to £1,450 per year per household over the duration of the deal.

Superhomes Provide Glimpse into the Future for UK Homeowners

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The need to conserve energy whilst reducing carbon emissions has been widely publicised in the UK. Some households have made changes large and small in an effort to tackle global warming, yet the purpose of installing  loft insulation, solar panels and other such green energy measures is not entirely about saving the planet; indeed, the process can also save homeowners substantial amounts of money on energy bills.

Recently, the ‘Superhomes’ scheme, which is operated by the Sustainable Energy Academy and the National Energy Foundation, opened to the public in a bid to advertise the benefits of making homes more energy efficient.

The Sustainable Energy Academy plans to create a network of 200 superhomes across England and Wales; at present, the scheme has produced a quarter of this figure and hit a milestone recently when the 50th superhome opened to the public.

Located in Welwyn Village, Tony Almond’s 1968 five-bedroom detached house has been retrofitted to become the scheme’s 50th superhome.

Costing approximately £25,000, the retrofit includes the installation of double glazing, cavity wall insulation, 250mm loft insulation, 100mm underfloor insulation and draught-proofing. The most notable change to Mr Almond’s home, however, can be found on its roof.

Having been laid with sedum, Mr Almond’s roof was fitted with 3kWp solar photovoltaic panels in February 2010. Since the panels were fitted, the household has not received an electricity bill; in fact, the property’s electricity meter is running backwards. Under the previous Government’s feed-in tariff scheme, Mr Almond’s solar panel installation has earned the household a substantial £681.45.

The Government’s ‘Green Deal’, which offers loans of up to £10,000 per household for energy efficiency improvements, aims to encourage more homeowners to retrofit their homes in pursuit of a greener future.

Greg Barker, the Minister for Climate Change, said of the scheme: “This groundbreaking legislation will allow us to offer consumers the ability to install energy efficiency measures in their homes without any upfront costs or payments. These would be paid back over time through savings on energy bills”.

Although a £10,000 loan would not fully pay for a superhome retrofit, which costs between £15,000 and £25,000 on average, it would nonetheless help households improve their energy efficiency.

Baxi Streamlines Solo HE as Government Lifts Renewable Energy Ban

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Baxi has improved its range of heat only boilers with the introduction of the Baxi Solo HE A, which is unlike other central heating boilers in that it is designed to be fitted flush with standard kitchen wall cupboards. Having reduced the depth of the Solo HE A, Baxi is hoping to appeal to the portion of the market that wishes to combine convenience with high energy efficiency.

Not only is the Baxi Solo HE A more streamlined than most other wall-standing boilers, the unit exceeds the minimum efficiency levels required for SEDBUK 2005 at over 90 per cent. Operating an energy efficient boiler is estimated to save the average household around £235 each year according to the Energy Saving Trust.

The Baxi Solo HE A is available in 12, 15, 18, 24 and 30 kW outputs and is compatible with Baxi Solarflo domestic solar thermal systems and Megaflo Solar hot water storage cylinders.

Solar devices have become popular in homes across the UK recently as homeowners attempt to save on fuel costs whilst reducing their carbon footprint. At the commercial level, solar panels are set to become even more popular after the Government announced that a ban on local councils selling energy to the National Grid is to be lifted.

Commencing the 18th of August this year, councils across the United Kingdom will be able to generate and sell renewable solar energy to the grid, according to the energy secretary, Chris Huhne.

The Department of Energy & Climate Change has estimated that the lifting of the ban could generate up to £100 million per year in revenue for local authorities across the UK.

After announcing the decision, Mr Huhne said: “This is a vital step to making community renewable projects commercially viable, to bring in long-term income to benefit local areas and to secure local acceptance for low carbon energy projects”.

Whereas the percentage of green electricity produced by local authorities in England is estimated at being no higher than 0.01 at present, Germany boasts figures that are more than one hundred times higher.

South Gloucestershire Council Building Wins Environmental Award

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It is regrettable that many council buildings across England and Wales are relatively old and energy inefficient; excluding residential properties that have benefited from double glazing, cavity wall and loft insulation projects, council buildings are not renowned for their eco-friendliness. A council building in South Gloucestershire, however, may just be the exception that proves the rule.

Designed by Stride Treglown and built by Kier Western contractors, the modern-looking building features a design that is as pleasing on the eye as it is friendly to the environment. Last month, the Badminton Road council offices were judged to be the ‘Best Large Commercial Development’ at the prestigious LABC awards ceremony.

LABC judges stated: “The South Gloucestershire Council building in Yate has been developed as a state-of-the-art, sustainable, future-proof facility to improve cost efficiency and reduce the authority’s carbon footprint”.

South Gloucestershire Council’s Deputy Chief Executive, David Perry, added: “The council is committed to achieving the best value for money for South Gloucestershire’s residents and the new offices support this aim. The LABC award is on top of Badminton Road receiving an ‘Excellent’ rating from the internationally-recognised Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM)”. The question that most readers would ask at this point is: what is so special about the new council building?

The answer is that the Badminton Road offices comprise solar panels, natural ventilation, rainwater harvesting and a biomass boiler amongst many other eco-friendly features and facilities.

Whilst the building is expected to save the council up to £1.3 million per year (previously, the authority was based in expensive leased offices), the use of a biomass boiler is just one of numerous energy saving initiatives that are expected to cut carbon emissions.

Biomass boilers are not completely green, however, as the burning of biomass fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in much the same way as the burning of fossil fuels does. The important distinction between fossil fuel and biomass boilers in an environmental context is that the former releases greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that have been trapped inside the Earth for thousands or millions of years, whereas biomass is part of the present carbon cycle (via plants and trees).

Baxi Claims Back Boilers Back in Business

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The heating boiler is an essential fixture in most homes throughout the UK; although, recent new builds have employed designs that are sufficiently energy efficient as to eliminate the need for boilers.

Notwithstanding this, it remains standard practice to install boilers in new and existing homes to meet basic heating and hot water requirements. Following changes to the Building Regulations in 2005, however, all new boiler installations and replacements had to use high efficiency boilers.

Often referred to as condensing boilers, the high efficiency units proved to be problematic for existing Baxi Bermuda customers; indeed, until recently, Baxi Bermuda installations and replacements could not always conform to the new regulations

The Baxi Bermuda was introduced to the UK market in 1966 and quickly gained favour with customers, who were impressed by the boiler’s unique selling point: it was designed to be installed into an existing fire place, thereby saving space within the home.

The relatively good performance and reliability of Baxi Bermuda back boilers facilitated their popularity in all types of household – not merely those that required more space-saving; however, following the changes to the Building Regulations, it became apparent to many homeowners that replacing old back boiler units would be no simple – or inexpensive – procedure. In its pursuit of simplicity, the original Baxi Bermuda back boiler ended up complicating matters for many people.

Fortunately, Baxi has developed a solution to the problem faced by homeowners with old Bermuda installations. Having recently developed and launched its Baxi Bermuda BBU HE, which is the only condensing model available in the UK, homeowners in need of replacement back boilers need not worry about switching to conventional high efficiency boilers.

Because the Baxi Bermuda BBU HE is an A-rated, high efficiency condensing boiler, no special planning permission or paperwork is required to install such a unit in accordance with current Building Regulations.

Furthermore, the state-of-the-art back boiler includes a Valor Dimension electric fire as standard – a product that features patented hologram technology to create the illusion of a real coal fire. The Valor Dimension fire can produce a cosy 2kW of heat or it can act as a focal point without any heat output at all.