Thursday, May 2, 2013

DECC launches green energy 'competition'

by Alex Blake
The Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) has today (2 May) launched a £6 million competition encouraging social housing landlords to install renewable energy sources in their properties.
Landlords can apply for up funding for heat pumps, biomass installations and solar panels.
The competition forms part of Phase 2 of theRenewable Heat Premium Payment (RHPP) scheme, extended in March 2013, and will be run by the Energy Saving Trust (EST).
The £6 million is divided equally into two £3 million ‘bidding windows’. The first window closes on 28 June 2013 and requires projects to be completed by March 2014. The closing date for the second window is 27 September 2013, with projects to be completed by June 2014.
The EST describes the first window as a ‘Fast Track’ competition, open to ‘landlords who have pipeline projects ready to go’. There will be no limit to the level of funding a bidder can request, as long as it complies with State Aid regulations.
The second window is described by the EST as a ‘Reach-Out’ competition, where landlords ‘who had previously thought the RHPP competition was not for them, who needed to find out more before committing and/or are in need of application advice/support’ are invited to submit projects. This window has a funding cap of €200,000 (roughly £175,000) and runs on a ‘slower timeline’ than the Fast Track contest.
Competition will help ‘tackle fuel poverty’
Speaking on the competition, Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said: “This new investment in renewable heat projects will enable social landlords across Great Britain to get innovative renewable heating kit into the homes of their social tenants. This will help save money on energy bills and provide low carbon alternatives to traditional heating systems.
“More than 100 social landlords are already taking advantage of over £13 million under our renewable heat competitions. I would encourage more social landlords to rise to the challenge and get involved.”
National Housing Federation Assistant Director Helen Williams praised the competition, saying: “This competition will help build on the great work already done by housing associations to promote renewable heat, particularly in off-grid areas to help reduce bills and tackle fuel poverty.
“The social housing sector has the potential to make a real difference for residents, so it is great this is being recognised. This will help build the required expertise as we move toward the introduction of RHI [Renewable Heat Incentive] domestic.”
Changes to the contest
Entries will be judged by a panel of experts on a variety of criteria, including value for money, fuel to be replaced, additional energy efficiency measures to be installed and plans to work with local communities.
DECC states that any landlords previously awarded money under past rounds of the competition are eligible to apply for further funding for new projects.
DECC has also announced a number of changes to the RHPP scheme, particularly to encourage participation by landlords who would not previously have considered entering such a competition. The changes include:
hosting a series of regional events during spring 2013 to help landlords who ‘lack understanding of renewable heat technologies’;
supporting landlords who ‘lack in-house resources or expertise’ to commit to a competition such as this;
welcoming consortia of landlords who have pooled their resources (although each landlord will be required to submit a separate entry);
permitting a ‘reasonable’ level of consultancy fees to aid landlords in developing their applications; and
giving merit to ‘community engagement proposals of superior quality’.
The EST has sought to reassure landlords concerned over cost and time burdens in submitting an application that all entries into the original Phase Two competitions received funding.
Green Deal
The RHPP competition forms the latest part of government’s efforts to tackle the UK’s growing dependency on energy. In January 2013, the DECC launched the Green Deal, a scheme which allows householders and businesses to take out loans to make their homes more energy efficient (with repayment taken through the property’s electricity bill rather than through individuals), in the hopes of reducing the negative effects of ‘leaky buildings’ (thought to be responsible for 38 per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions) and cut electricity bills.
However, the scheme has been widely criticised, with a spokesperson for Greenpeace saying that it would be ‘heading for trouble’ without ‘lower interest rates, more money to tackle fuel poverty and tough regulations on landlords renting out dangerously cold homes’.