Home ‘renewables’ and low-carbon micro-generation (power production) technologies, such as wind turbines, solar thermal panels and biomass boilers, are a great way to reduce carbon emissions, live more autonomously, and save or even make money.
What is renewable energy?
Renewable energy covers more than just wind turbines and solar panels – it is defined as energy gained from any source that is naturally replenished, unlike oil, gas, or coal (which theoretically might also be naturally replenished, but over much much much longer timescales!). Renewable Energy production is also known as 'Renewables', 'Green Energy', 'Microgeneration' or 'Sustainable Energy'. Renewables produce heat or electricity, or both.
Domestic sources of renewable energy are:
· Energy from direct sunlight (solar)
· Heat from the earth, the air, or water sources (indirect solar)
· Wind (also essentially indirect solar)
· Plants grown for fuel known as biomass or biofuels (also essentially indirect solar: when you burn them the sunlight escapes!)
· Anaerobic Digestion (breaking down of plant/organic matter to form gas, which is then burnt to drive a turbine, producing both electricity and heat – Combined Heat and Power, or CHP).
· Hydro power from the movement of water.
Non-domestic sources of renewable energy include:
· Tidal power (lunar energy).
· Geothermal (from the Earth’s internal heat).
Why use renewable energy?
There are many good reasons to install and use your own renewable energy:
· First and foremost, it won’t run out!
· It reduces your dependence on non-renewable energy and dis-empowers the corporations associated with this, thus reducing their global environmental and societal impacts.
· It helps to keep the air clean.
· It reduces the production of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which are responsible for climate change.
· It creates new jobs in ‘Green Industries’.
· With the help of various government financial incentives, it can both save and make you money!
Feed-In Tariffs (FITs) and the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI)
Both the FIT and RHI schemes are government programs created in order to promote and increase the installation of renewable technologies, both commercially and domestically.
FITs are paid on most electricity-producing technologies as listed above – the specific tariff depends upon the individual technology and date of installation, have a look at our funding section to find out more.
In order to qualify for FITs, the installer and the products you use must both be certified under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) - except hydro and anaerobic digestion which have to go through the ROO-FIT process. The tariffs you receive depend on both the eligibility date and, for solar PV, your property’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating.
You will be paid for the electricity your renewables generate, even if you use it yourself. You will also be paid for any surplus electricity you export to the grid, and you will use less imported electricity and save money on your bill, thus essentially gaining three ways!
The RHI is the first scheme of its type anywhere in the world – similar to the FIT, it will pay the home owner per kilowatt hour (kWh) of heat that is produced by a renewable source. It is due to be fully launched in March 2014 for domestic installations dating back to the 15th July 2009 (the non-domestic phase for industrial, business and public sectors launched in November 2011).
The scheme will support air and ground source heat pumps (A/GSHP), biomass heating, and solar thermal technologies – money will be paid per kWh of renewable heat produced for seven years at a rate depending upon the technology. See the Ofgem website for tariffs.
Since heat metering is difficult and would be open to potential mis-use, RHI payments are generally based on:
- an estimated figure of household heat demand from an EPC, and
- an estimate of efficiency for heat pumps, or system performance as part of an MCS installation for solar thermal.
All applicants are required to complete a Green Deal Assessment (GDA) before applying to ensure that their dwellings meet the minimum energy efficiency requirements of loft and cavity insulation. As with FITs, the system must be certified under the MCS and meet relevant standards for each technology.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the criteria - further details about the scheme and all the related policy documents can be found on the Ofgem factsheets.
Make your home energy efficient first!
In order to qualify for the RHI, your home will have to meet basic energy efficiency standards. Even if you’re not planning on installing any technologies appropriate for the RHI, it makes simple common sense to improve your house first.
Insulating, draught-proofing, minimising your electricity usage, or improving the efficiency of your heating system, will leave you better off, improve the comfort of your home, and if you are installing renewable technologies will ensure you make more money – whilst all the while reducing your impact on the planet of course!
NOTE: Planning and insurance
Although most domestic generation systems are classed as permitted development in England, Scotland and Wales, meaning that you don’t need planning permission, the rules differ depending on the technology and the country and you should always check with your local authority.
You should also check with your insurance company to make sure that your current policy covers any alterations and/or technologies that you introduce to your home.