A bright future for renewable heat

Clare Campbell, Product Marketing Manager for Dimplex Renewables, looks at the measures that organisations are taking to cut their energy consumption and what the latest carbon cutting measures can mean for the bottom line.

As energy prices continue to rise and building regulations become more stringent, the demand for energy saving solutions, particularly in commercial premises, only gets stronger.

From quick-fix products like air curtains to large scale renewable solutions which can transform the energy performance of a building, lower running costs and shorter payback periods are making investment in carbon cutting products far more viable for many organisations.

One of the biggest opportunities to make change is in the installation of lower carbon, renewable heating systems, such as ground source or air source heat pumps. It has never been more evident that we need to look at lower carbon energy solutions if we are to meet ambitious Government targets of an 80% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This need is particularly evident in the commercial sector, which generates 40% of all CO2 emissions in Europe.

Proven solution

Heat pumps are a proven solution in the commercial new build sector where building regulations demand higher levels of efficiency and zero carbon buildings by 2019 and Dimplex has seen some fantastic results on construction projects for schools, offices, retail and leisure buildings amongst others.

Heat pumps work by extracting warmth from the ground or ambient air and compressing it, raising the temperature sufficiently to run a heating system. Although the initial capital cost of switching to a heat pump system can seem off-putting at first, the latest air source heat pumps offer high efficiencies, short paybacks and a great return on investment.

But alongside the new-build opportunity, there is also huge potential to make use of renewable technology in retrofit projects – particularly the installation of large scale heat pump systems in place of ageing oil or LPG boilers.

Part of the reason for this largely untapped retrofit market in the commercial sector has been the glaring omission of air source heat pumps from the non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), which offers financial support for green heating technologies including ground source heat pumps, biomass and solar thermal water heating.

Take-up of the non-domestic scheme has undoubtedly been disappointing and the general feeling is that many of the tariffs were based on inaccurate assumptions and subsequently set too low.

The Government has now completed a consultation with a view to increasing tariffs for some technologies and this includes the intention to finally include air source heat pumps with a tariff of 2.5p per kWh – making commercial installations a far more viable option. In addition, with annual running costs of an air source heat pump up to £3,200 per year lower than an oil boiler, it is easy to see what it could do for the bottom line – especially as the price of fossil fuels continues to rise.

Solar thermal technology

Another renewable heating solution increasingly specified in new-build and retrofit projects is solar thermal technology. Transferring the sun’s warmth via roof panels to the hot water supply, solar thermal is becoming more cost effective to install and can provide up to 60% of a building’s annual hot water demand from renewable technology.

Commercial solar thermal installations represent the second largest technology installed under the non-domestic RHI scheme (albeit a long way behind biomass, which has dominated the scheme to date) and under the latest consultation, tariffs are set to increase from 9.2p/kWh to as much as 11.3p/kWh.

This makes solar thermal an attractive proposition for commercial buildings, which is also relatively simple to install, requires little maintenance and can be linked with other technologies such as heat pumps to provide a complete renewables solution.

This ‘whole-building’ approach is where the biggest rewards can be gained. When specified correctly, a solar thermal system and heat pump can work together to provide space and hot water heating, further driving down energy bills and giving the added benefit of non-domestic RHI tariffs on both technologies. It is a fantastic way to make the best use of the latest technology in order to save money and earn rewards within the latest building regulations.

With higher efficiencies, shorter payback periods and additional support available from the non-domestic RHI, more and more organisations are looking at renewable heat in a bid to reduce emissions and cut running costs. Now is the time to act to make sure you don’t get left behind.

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