MORE than half of the energy we use in Scotland goes to heat our buildings and homes. At the moment, much of this is provided by fossil fuels – gas in areas served by the gas grid, oil or electricity elsewhere. But the UK and Scottish Governments have important plans to encourage us to heat our buildings using renewable sources.
Both Westminster and Holyrood wish to reduce carbon emissions and achieve a large contribution of their renewable heat and electricity targets from sustainable fuels. Scotland is aiming for 11% of its heat to be produced from renewables by 2020.
We at Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG) wish Aberdeen to be a leading authority in the UK on the application of renewable fuels to the heating of buildings. And it is important that businesses and others in the north-east of Scotland are aware of this opportunity.
We have already made some important early steps in this direction. At this year’s All-Energy Conference and Exhibition, AREG will be launching its new biomass brochure, describing a wide variety of projects across the north-east where wood fuel has been introduced to heat buildings. These include:
The first stages of a renewable district heating scheme for the city.
Major installations at Foresterhill Hospital and the new Marischal College development.
A significant number of schools, estates, village halls and businesses in Aberdeenshire.
Early stages of study at Aberdeen Airport.
The region’s two new suppliers of wood pellets to serve the new markets.
It is not yet a revolution in Scandinavian terms – but it is an important and vital start.
The AREG document then makes a compelling case for organisations to consider heating their buildings in this (to many of us) new way.
But what, for example, are the advantages of wood fuel? Well, it can considerably reduce power and heating costs. It is sustainable, affordable and practical. It creates new jobs and uses existing local skills. For these reasons, AREG is keen to support the introduction of schemes based on this technology.
Other technologies can also be considered – ground-source heat pumps and air-source heat pumps are ways in which boiler systems can create heating by taking advantage of temperature differences within the natural environment.
And even in the northerly latitudes of the north-east it is possible to gain valuable building heating from solar thermal installations.
These technologies are being deployed in the region in increasing numbers. And the number of suppliers and installers is also growing.
Such technologies offer the potential to be the norm of tomorrow and, again, the north-east has the chance to step up to lead the field. But how will government make it attractive for us to switch the way that we heat our buildings? The short answer is a simple acronym – little known to date – RHI, or the Renewable Heat Incentive.
Under this new UK-wide scheme – set to be introduced in April 2011 – the owners of buildings will be paid an income stream if they heat their building by one of the above renewable fuels.
The income will be equivalent to a rate of return of 12% on the capital invested in the new equipment (6% for solar thermal). That represents an excellent rate of return in today’s financial climate.
So how should Aberdeen respond to this opportunity?
We, at AREG, wish Aberdeen city and shire to work together to become a leading pilot for this new incentive. We wish to use European funding to bring the best experience in Europe to our region and build on our early steps. We wish to see our area at the forefront of the new heating agenda.
We expect to see district heating schemes on the Scandinavian model in our city and towns, and widespread use of heat pumps and solar thermal in more rural locations.
This will further reinforce Aberdeen’s position as a global centre on energy issues.
We need to act on this now for a whole host of reasons – economic, environmental, societal. Rest assured that AREG will be playing a full part in this agenda. Do join us.