By Max Clarke

The Government today announced the details of the Renewable Heat Incentive policy to revolutionise the way heat is generated and used in buildings and homes. This is the first financial support scheme for renewable heat of its kind in the world.

As part of Prime Minister David Cameron’s drive to be the greenest government ever, the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) policy document will address the significant heat- the majority of which is sourced from fossil fuels- that is lost to the environment through homes and businesses.

Initially to be trialled to non-domestic sectors which cumulatively contribute 38% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, the scheme will then be rolled out to homes across the country.

Technologies to be used will include heat-pumps, biomass gas production and geothermal heat sources, and homes and NGOs will receive governmental support.

The RHI document sets out the detailed arrangements for this scheme which will provide long-term financial support to renewable heat installations and encourage the uptake of renewable heat and can be found [here.

Commenting on the announcement of £860 million to encourage the use of renewable heat in UK businesses and homes WWF Scotland’s Climate Policy Officer, Dr Sam Gardner, said:

“Space and water heating in homes and offices accounts for a half of Scotland's total energy use. Yet despite its almost total reliance on fossil fuels, heat has long been neglected as we have focused on electricity.

“This announcement marks a welcome change in the support for renewable heat. However, it very disappointing that most home owners will have to wait another year to fully benefit from the scheme. Across Scotland thousands of households are locked into fuel poverty and exposed to the harsh consequences of ever increasing oil and gas prices. The UK Government should have made this support available to all right from the start."

Scotland's generation of renewable heat currently languishes at around 2 per cent — a long way short of the Scottish Government’s renewable heat target of 11 per cent by 2020.

Dr Gardner added: "In the run up to the Holyrood election we call upon all political parties to step up their commitment to renewable heat, including helping local authorities identify the scale of opportunities for renewable heat across the community and public sector by 2012."

WWF also expressed extreme disappointment that the announcement also includes heat from municipal incinerators. The environmental group warned that money vitally needed to convert businesses and homes to renewable heat will be wasted on subsidising incineration and will create an incentive to build more incinerators, instead of saving energy by reducing and recycling waste.

Dr Gardner said: “Applying any of the heat incentive to subsidise waste incineration is entirely at odds with efforts to move towards zero waste and risks undermining recycling and reuse.”