Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Renewable Heat Premium Payments

I spent this morning at the launch of Renewable Heat Premium Payments – Community Scheme (RHPP2). Through this project, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DEECC) hope to ‘understand more about the potential financial, community and environmental benefits from community led deployment of renewable heat’. Greg Barker MP, Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change introduced the launch with enthusiasm and the words:

“Communities will be the galvanising force in championing and delivering renewable heating.”

As chairman or the Pangbourne and Whitchurch Sustainability group (PAWS), I already have a good idea of what is needed. The current situation is that relatively affluent people with spare cash and large houses are fitting renewable energy solutions and taking advantage of the government subsidies.  Relatively poorer people in smaller lower quality houses are not drawn into the system. We have to act differently to enable renewable energy solutions for the bulk of the countries housing stock, not just the relatively rich.

RHPP2 is intended to establish trailblazer communities so that other communities will follow. I hope that this might be so but the logic is weak. It is laudable that the government want to give power to communities, and so they should, such as reducing the red tape that strangles local renewable energy companies.  But the government has to do more.

The key barrier to renewable energy solutions is cheap fossil fuel. The government should have the political courage to set up a tax escalator for all fossil fuels to give firm figures to invest in renewable energy. This will be far more powerful than subsidies. The relatively rich will do the sums and rush to install renewable energy. The government will have considerable additional funds to invest in the housing stock of those at the bottom of the social pyramid. Fuel prices will rise steeply but fuel bills will be pegged through the rich investing in improving their houses and the poor benefitting from government programs to implement basic measures such as insulation across the housing stock.

Do we want complex systems to give away government money or real action to drive change?

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