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Renewable technology is the focus of the future

When specifying heating and hot water systems for new or existing commercial buildings, renewable or low carbon solutions should be considered. Sean Green discusses the market
CONTRIBUTING TO 38 per cent of the UK's carbon emissions, the non-domestic sector has a significant role to play in meeting the country's carbon reduction commitments. If the UK is going to meet its targets, we need to see renewable and low carbon technologies being more widely adopted in the commercial sector. So, if a heating and/or hot water system is required for a new or existing commercial or public sector building, new technologies should at least be considered.

Currently, renewable and low carbon technologies are largely installed in new build properties, but new buildings account for just a fraction of the market. Only 20 per cent of the commercial heating market is new build, with the remaining 80 per cent being retrofit. But it's important to remember that although legislation primarily targets carbon reduction in new buildings, there are great opportunities for upgrading existing systems in terms of reducing carbon emissions and reducing the operational costs of the heating and hot water systems selected.

Switching to a renewable or low carbon technology can make good business sense - as long as products are installed in appropriate applications, and the correct technology is selected. While the use of renewable and low carbon technologies can help businesses and organisations to achieve a higher level of carbon compliance (to meet carbon reduction/environmental targets or obligations or even to obtain new build planning consent) they can also reduce energy costs and, if applicable, the burden of the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme.

Furthermore, with the RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive) helping businesses, the public sector and non-profit organisations meet the cost of installing renewable and low carbon heat technologies by providing ongoing payments, it could be a good time to invest. Some renewable and low carbon products are also included on the Energy Technology List, so are eligible for an Enhanced Capital Allowance.

So, what does the renewable and low carbon market look like? There isn't a one-size-fits-all solution where renewable and low carbon technologies are concerned, but we have already noticed certain trends developing in terms of where the different technologies are installed, and in terms of which technologies are leading the market.

We are, for example, seeing marked growth in biomass boilers - particularly suited for off gas applications with high heat demands. Such customers have been quick to realise that the RHI provides good ongoing payments, and compared with oil their energy costs are reduced by half, if not more.

Due to the additional considerations required for biomass projects, we are finding prefabricated biomass plant room solutions, where all the necessary equipment is pre-assembled in a transportable plant room and delivered to site as a 'plug and play' unit, are becoming increasingly popular.

The CHP (combined heat and power) market is also looking positive, and is set to continue growing. We believe it's actually the strongest contender in the renewable and low carbon market, and it's the technology that is currently most widely utilised in commercial retrofit applications, due to its comparative ease of incorporation to an existing building and heating system. Arguably it attracts the most attention too - at exhibitions the interest is phenomenal, and people are generally amazed that a boiler can generate its own electricity. The payback tends to be more attractive than other technologies, and siting is simple and straightforward.

We're seeing a lot of interest for our Dachs mini-CHP unit for applications such as fire stations, hotels, MoD sites and local authority/housing association dwellings.

Meanwhile, once almost hailed as a silver bullet for carbon reduction, solar thermal water heating is actually in a period of decline. We believe this is largely down to the emergence of alternative technologies. That said, solar thermal water heating still remains popular, and we believe that the market will start to improve again. The technology is appropriate for urban and rural buildings, with the options of glazed flat plate collectors or evacuated tubes available (for solar energy capture) and a range of stainless steel solar thermal storage vessel sizes offered, all targeted to suit individual project requirements.

It's a technology that's used throughout the UK. Typical applications include sites where a constant demand for domestic hot water is required throughout the year - housing, office spaces and leisure facilities are all good examples.

Gas absorption heat pumps (GAHPs) are a perfect low carbon solution for cutting running costs and carbon emissions, as they provide circa 65 per cent free energy by drawing energy from the surrounding air and converting this to heat. Gas absorption heat pumps are supplemented by natural gas, rather than electricity, which is roughly a third of the running cost.

Baxi Commercial offers a wide range of biomass solutions, CHP units, solar thermal collectors/hot water cylinders and gas absorption, air-to-water and ground source heat pumps. We are also currently trialling fuel cell CHP technology with a customer in the hospitality sector - we see the two-year programme as a vital step towards the wider adoption of fuel cells in the UK commercial heating industry.

Our business will continue to develop new renewable and low carbon technologies to ensure that we deliver appropriate heating and hot water solutions that meet the demands of the market.

The Government has set the landscape for the use of renewable and low carbon technologies. And if we are going to meet our carbon reduction commitments then they need to be more widely utilised in the commercial sector, where they can lower energy costs as well as carbon emissions, and
provide ongoing payments through the RHI.

// The author is the senior product manager at Baxi Commercial //
1 December 2013

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