Chris Goggin of Rinnai looks at Government policy on low carbon heating and hot water provision which is defined by international pricing, supply chains and political polarisation leading to a rare level of market confusion. This has led to UK customer confusion over which appliance and what fuel should be sourced for heating and hot water needs. Installers & contractors suffer when advising and specifying on behalf of customer due to constant shifts in policy and regular mainstream media misinformation. Here are some reactions to this.
Rinnai has been listening to the concerns of heating engineers and contractors regarding the centralized policy decisions that can result in inadequate heating and hot water provision on many sites. UK policy is aimed at introducing low carbon methods of DHW provision and heating yet is still heavily reliant on natural gas as the national fuel.
It can be argued that heating engineers have not been provided with consistent information on domestic energy policy management by the government. Installers rely on consistent advice passed down from government in order to properly assist customers in selecting the correct hot water and heating system.
UK energy policy makers appear lax in keeping UK consumers and installers fully informed on the wide and expanding range of low carbon & decarbonising products that are currently available. The current strategy, heavily espoused by the main media channels, appears to rely on a narrow band of appliances and fuels, namely heat pumps and electrification.
UK indecision has influenced the stalling of renewable projects and prohibits financial investment in green energy production. In a recent discussion focusing on UK hydrogen between Dr Alan Whitehead MP and Tarmindo. Global, an international renewable investment company, the following concerns were mentioned: A lack of clarity in the long-term hydrogen business model is creating uncertainty across UK hydrogen projects and the wider supply chain. Sustained uncertainty could persuade investors into other markets; and a collective industry concern believes that prolonged indecision will prevent projects from starting, causing further negativity to spread across the UK hydrogen supply chain. Hydrogen project developers are keen for work to begin.
Offshore wind is another area of concern for renewable developers. Despite the UK introducing the CfD (Contracts for Difference) scheme that aims to encourage low carbon electricity generation big business has already begun to stall and halt multiple projects. Swedish wind company Vattenfall has halted construction on a multi-billion-pound offshore wind project – Norfolk Boreas. If completed the wind farm will create enough clean energy for 1.5 million homes. Vattenfall claim the project is no longer profitable due to market circumstances.
We spoke with several installers about this very topic. They are based in the South-East, the most densely populated and most affluent region. The first is a builder/heating contractor who operates at the higher end of the market doing a small number of new builds and conversions each year. He aways asks clients first what they want and then advises according to the practical, economic and technical aspects of the job’s feasibility.
He told us: “The lack of clarity and decisiveness, of course, makes us look bad and that we don’t know what we are talking about. It seems that everything about NetZero and lowering carbon is forever changing, making it difficult too properly pass on the correct advice.”
When asked on what method of heating and DHW is most enquired about he said: “Air source heat pumps and natural gas are the two most popular methods, and little is mentioned about hydrogen – if anything ever at all. We do a fair of amount of commercial works too. They always go for a traditional gas system. Sometimes they go for a system using a heat pump plus auxiliary back-up, or a solar thermal configuration.”
Another business owner/installer said: “It’s complicated at the moment. Lots of change. However, I don’t think it sullies our reputations, we don’t look bad because of the government. However, they don’t do themselves any favours. When we are asked about what type of heating and hot water delivery system a site wants, most customers ask for natural gas – a small number have asked about installing electrical boilers, but I advised them to stick with gas. There’s so much indecision and poor information coming out of the newspapers and TV. Installers are a lot savvier than we are credited with – we are businessmen and need to give our customers the best possible advice on the practicalities and the costs of heating and hot water.”
An additional business owner who maintains considerable experience across combustion engine design and construction as well as commercial and domestic plumbing believes: “hydrogen will definitely flow through pipes into houses sometime in the future.” When asked about other forms of renewable power customers enquire about, he said: “heat pumps are an area of interest that clients of mine enquire about, as is solar. But, for now I advise all clients to stick with natural gas. For all the talk of gas being phased out, I can’t see that happening just yet. But I believe hydrogen will happen.”
When asked for his views on communication between government and installers, he said: “I’ve had no problems, I stay on top of everything. Although a clear sense of direction would be better for everyone involved.”
Another plumber, interviewed and filmed at the recent Installer Show 2023, by said: “There is a pressing need for all of us to stay current with all new developments because there is so much changing in the industry. If you’re not getting on board, you’re going to fall behind.”
Clearer communication that provides customers with a complete range of alternative energy vectors will result in the correct system being installed in the correct property.
Rinnai is designing and producing a comprehensive selection of products, heat pumps, solar thermal, continuous flow water heaters, electric storage tanks, all fuels of gas BioLPG, hydrogen ready appliances and electric, plus a complete range of auxiliary and ancillary products – all available in system format and delivered to site in one complete consignment.
Rinnai is offering a NEW and FREE customer service that designs the ideal heating and hot water system suited specifically to the requirements of the customer’s own site – on or off grid. Rinnai’s H3 range covers existing energy products as well hydrogen, heat pumps and hybrid solar systems. All energy vectors are covered and were designed to help produce savings in all customer costs and carbon emissions.
Rinnai believe that installers could benefit from better levels of communication between the energy industry and policy makers. Without updated and sustained communication, UK customers and heating engineers could continue to see difficultly when designing systems that require a practical, technical and economic approach.
Rinnai understand the complexity of contemporary energy issues and remains committed towards providing technical, economic and feasible options for UK installers and customers alike.
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