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RHI could cause air pollution warns EPUK

By Laura Elahi on March 21, 2011

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) risks increasing air pollution in urban areas, warns the leading charity Environmental Protection UK (EPUK).

The Renewable Heat Incentive will offer all households regular payments for installing eligible renewable heating systems, including biomass burners such as wood fired boilers. Biomass heating systems can release relatively high levels of air pollutants when fuel is burned, a potential health risk in towns and cities, especially where air quality already reaches harmful levels.

A recent study by the committee on the medical effects of air pollutants suggests air pollutants of the type released by biomass heating systems, the same as those caused by traffic pollution, contribute to up to 200,000 premature deaths per year.

James Grugeon, EPUK’s chief executive, said: “EPUK welcomes any scheme that promotes the use of renewable heating and microgeneration, but not at the unwarranted expense of public health. The Renewable Heat Incentive published shows a disregard for the quality of our air and public health in already polluted urban areas.”

Environmental Protection UK is advocating a location based approach to renewable heat and power systems, including small-scale microgeneration, which would see local authorities have a greater say in where they can be deployed, ensuring health impacts are minimised and the most effective locations for the technologies are promoted.

Mr Grugeon said: “The Renewable Heat Incentive highlights the need for a rethink on the Government’s microgeneration strategy. It’s a step in the right direction, but this broad-brush approach to installing renewables shows there is a lack of understanding about the local health impacts they can have and also where they work best. With more planning and collaboration with local authorities, microgeneration systems could be installed in places with the highest carbon benefit and the lowest health impact. The Renewable Heat Incentive shouldn’t miss this opportunity.”