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Europe Will Not Meet 20% Renewable Energy Target by 2020

Europe will not be able to meet its obligation to supply 20% of its energy from renewable energy by 2020, states John Hollick, CEO of SolarWall Europe, Sarl. and Chairman of the Solar Air Heating World Industries Association (SAHWIA) due to an error in definition made by the European Parliament.

The operations of buildings – heating, powering and cooling them – account for the largest source of GHG emissions, which helps to explain the rationale for the European Union’s 20% Renewable Energy Target.

In an inexplicable turn of events, Europe’s Renewable Energy Directive has actively excluded solar air heating from its list of approved solar technologies, despite the fact that it addresses the largest usage of building energy in many countries, which is indoor space and process heating.

The exclusion is even more perplexing given that solar air heating technologies produce the fastest ROI of any solar technology and have been widely used in countries and applications around the world, including a very strong concentration in Canada and the USA, for the past 20 years for clients such as Sainsbury, Auchan, Wal-Mart, Ford, Jaguar/Land Rover, Toyota, and the United States Military.

The error came to light when the UK government recently introduced its Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) which specifically excluded solar air heating. When the omission was brought to the attention of Greg Barker, Minister of State for Green Energy including Heat and RHI, his department responded with: “The primary objective of the RHI is to encourage the installation of renewable heating equipment and generation of renewable heat in order to meet the UK’s share of the EU 2020 renewable energy target. Therefore, the RHI will only include technologies which the European Commission considers to be renewable under the RED.”

The implication is that the UK and the rest of Europe will be unable to meet their 20% Renewable Energy Target by 2020 because they have no mechanism in place now to target space heating in the commercial, industrial and agricultural sectors.

As well, solar electric (PV) and solar water heating systems are considerably more expensive and produce less energy in comparison to solar air heating systems, so the decision to exclude a solar energy technology that is significantly more cost-effective for end user clients is difficult to understand, especially in an era of tight budgets and fiscal restraint.

It also contradicts the stated objectives of the UK’s RHI: “We need to work hard to remove the barriers holding back take-up…This support can help drive take-up of renewables now, stimulate the renewables industry, encourage further innovation and ultimately bring down the cost of renewable heating.”

Unfortunately the RHI will do the opposite. “Viable solar air heating systems are being excluded in lieu of more expensive water base heating systems just because they are on the “list”. As well as stifling innovation and preventing the widespread uptake in solar heating, this decision will ensure that the UK will be unable to meet their stated renewable energy targets because they are relying on expensive technologies that don’t address one of the largest usages of energy” states Hollick.

UK Renewable Heat Incentive Flawed

There are some very serious issues regarding renewable thermal energy in UK and Germany that have not been told. At present both governments are excluding solar air heating in favour of their own technologies and industries which produce solar water heating panels. In Canada last year, solar air heating systems out sold all other solar thermal systems and yet, solar air technology is not accepted as a renewable energy technology in Germany and in the UK Renewable Heat Incentive dated March 2011. These governments are depriving their citizens of improved solar heating technologies.

The UK Dept of Energy & Climate Change has introduced a Renewable Heat Incentive and it has a major flaw in that it excludes solar air heating and especially transpired solar collectors.

Below are a few sections from the RHI report with comments on them in italics.

Summary

The Government will take a phased approach to implementing the RHI. Initially, in the first phase, long-term tariff support will be targeted at the big emitters in the non-domestic sector. This sector, which covers everything from large-scale industrial heating to small business and community heating projects, will provide the vast majority of the renewable heat needed to meet our targets and represents the most cost-effective way of increasing the level of renewable heat. The Government therefore wants to provide support now in order to kick-start take-up in this sector.

These buildings are heated with air and heating water first to heat air is not cost effective.

Page 10 – The first phase of RHI tariffs will only support the non-domestic sectors. These sectors represent the most cost-effective way of delivering renewable heat, which will help us meet our renewables targets and reduce carbon emissions. We therefore want to introduce support now so installations can start being built.

Excluding solar air heating and transpired collectors contradicts this statement.

P 34 – Technologies supported

We will only provide incentives for technologies which are in commercial use in the UK.

SolarWall is in commercial use in UK and likely has more square metres of collectors in use for heating industrial buildings than solar water collectors – see http://www.CAGroup.ltd.uk

P 37 – Solar thermal

Solar thermal technologies collect heat from the sun onto a collector which transfers the heat energy to a working liquid. This liquid can then be used directly to provide hot water within a building, or an exchanger can transfer the heat from the working liquid to the water.

Solar thermal panels (liquid filled flat plate or evacuated tube solar collectors) will be eligible for support.

Air panels are not eligible even though air in buildings can be solar heated directly and not via expensive solar water panels and heat exchangers.

Government is picking winners and losers as they are supporting only expensive solar technologies and excluding lower cost solar air systems

P 40 – Direct air heating

Technologies which deliver renewable heat directly through hot/warm air will not be supported in the RHI from the outset. This means technologies such as ground or water source to air heat pumps; biomass kilns; furnaces; ovens and air heaters will not be able to claim the RHI. We will, however, look at whether and how these technologies could be included in the RHI from 2012.

There are a number of reasons for not including these technologies from the start of the scheme, which are primarily practical. Our methodology is to meter the heat generated and pay the RHI on that basis, however, there are practical difficulties with metering direct air heating, rather than water and steam. Furthermore, there is insufficient evidence of the costs of these technologies on which to base the RHI tariffs.

Conserval is monitoring solar air systems around the world and other governments (USA, Canada, France etc) are able to monitor solar air systems.

P 42 – Technologies and fuels excluded from the scheme

Transpired solar thermal panels

A small number of stakeholders have argued that direct air heating or transpired solar panels should be supported under the RHI. These technologies will not be included as they are not counted as a renewable technology under the RED.

How can solar heating of air not be a renewable technology?

This is the most damming statement for the Minister and if left as is, and it will certainly come back to haunt him. SolarWall is the most cost effective solar thermal technology for heating buildings currently available and it is being manufactured and sold in UK and in many other countries.

By John Hollick, CEO

Conserval Engineering Inc, SolarWall