Biomass Boilers Most Popular Form of Renewable Heat

A new Biomass Boilers survey has shown that the majority of applicants to the government’s non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive are small businesses, and that they favour biomass boilers.

The RHI is a government subsidy scheme through which organisations can apply to receive funding for the operation of renewable heat systems.

The survey, published on 11 February, found that the scheme had proved most popular among the leisure and commercial sector, which represented nearly six in 10 (57%) of all applications.

More than four fifths (82%) of all applicants to the scheme were from small businesses with under 10 employees. In almost three quarters (72%) of cases, installations were refits into existing buildings.

The devices most commonly selected were small-scale biomass boilers (87%). The largest proportion of the remainder was made up of medium-sized biomass systems, with ground-sourced heat pumps and solar-thermal panels also popular.

Financial savings

The most common reason given for installing a renewable heating system was the financial savings on offer ahead of the savings on business gas prices. Over six in 10 (61%) used their own finances to purchase their installation, and a similar proportion said they would not have installed their technology were it not for the RHI.

The application process is becoming increasingly user-friendly, and satisfaction with the scheme is high. The number of applicants encountering problems with their applications fell from more than half (54%) to little more than a third (35%), and just under nine in 10 (87%) were satisfied with the operation of their system.

However, fewer were happy with the cost of operating it: the government believed that this might be a consequence of the increased use of wood pellets, which are more expensive than other fuels.

To save money, the government has steadily reduced the tariffs available for the RHI. Around four in 10 (39%) applicants said this had influenced their plans, but the average payback time of projects remained around 10 years.

The non-domestic RHI has proved a successful and popular scheme, though cost-cutting reforms are in the pipeline.