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Renewables Support

15 February 2007

Investing in renewable technologies has high up front costs and a long term payback. Frank Booty finds out what grant support is currently available for those considering a change to and investment in renewable technologies

THE QUESTION TO ADDRESS INCREASINGLY at the earliest stages of design for a new building is not whether to install renewables, but which technology to install. That question is in part answered using CIBSE’s TM38: 2006 renewable energy sources for buildings, and RESET – Renewable Energy Sources Estimation tool (a Microsoft Excel-based software tool), which were released in November last year.

Low or zero carbon (LZC) energy is the term applied to renewable sources of energy and also to technologies which are either significantly more efficient than traditional solutions or which emit less carbon in providing heating, cooling or power. The LZC technologies covered by TM38 are solar thermal, photovoltaics (PV), district heating and cooling, CHP fuelled by gas and biomass, ground water cooling, ground source heat pumps, wind power and biomass boiler.

Once the right LZC technology has been selected, exactly how does an organisation go about obtaining grant support for renewable technologies?

Two phases
Mat Colmer, assistant programme development manager at the Energy Saving Trust, points to the DTI low carbon buildings programme and initial funding available in two phases of £28.5m and £50m. Phase 1 is in two streams for householders and communities, private sector retrofit and exemplar projects in new build and refurbishment. Phase 2 (commenced January 2007) comprises public sector and charitable organisations, and communities.

“Stream 2 comprises competitive quarterly bidding rounds, constrained by state aid requirements,” said Colmer. “There’s a 40 per cent subsidy – 50 per cent for SMEs.

” Stream 2A relates to medium scale exercises (up to £100,000), relating to retrofit and smaller new builds or refurbishments. There is a period of 18-24 months allowed to spend the grant; the first call was 30 November 2006, followed by 26 January, 16 March and 16 June, 2007.

Stream 2B relates to large-scale exercises (£100,000-under £1m) for new build and major refurbishment work, with a two-stage competitive bidding process. There’s over 24 months allowed to spend the grant. The two stage application process comprised building assessment and grant application with both stages reviewed by an independent panel.Competition was on the basis of carbon emissions reduction, beyond Part L 2006 level.

“The Carbon Trust is working with candidates at three main stages – before the grant application, during the design and build stages and after completion,” said Colmer. “The Carbon Trust will be mentoring and supporting the project team and collecting data for case studies and dissemination activities. Installations must be by an accredited installer. Only approved products will be grant funded. Details of accredited installers are to be found on exi sting schemes’ websites including the Low Carbon Buildings Programme. However, fuel cells, microCHP and renewable CHP are not currently funded but this should change after appropriate standards have been developed.”

In Phase 2, public sector and charitable organisations can apply for up to £1m, and applications will be taken until March 2008. Grants will be awarded on a first come, first served basis. No specific energy efficiency criteria will be applied, although there is no technical support available from the Carbon Trust.

Grant levels for Phase 2 vary according to technology and will be applied to total installation costs (excluding VAT) as ollows:
Solar photovoltaics 50 per cent
Biomass 45 per cent
Ground source heat pumps 40 per cent
Wind turbines 40 per cent
Solar thermal 25 per cent
[More information is available from icbpphase2 or by telephoning 01923 665086]

Of the LZC technologies mentioned, biomass stands out as being the highest in carbon dioxide savings. Indeed the potential for biomass in the UK is good, although a reliable and reasonably local supply of fuel from forestry, farming or industrial sources is required. The Government is committed to biomass because it is a low carbon energy source and because of its potential to boost rural economies.

Martin Ratcliffe of Roger Preston Environmental which advocates using wood chips/pellets indicated that in a modern residential tower block, sizing a biomass boiler for only 25 per cent of typical peak can provide over 80 per cent of annual energy needs. Further, there are capital cost savings, space savings and better control. “But you need to carry out a detailed analysis hour-by-hour for a whole year as you need realistic load profiles,” said Ratcliffe.

Another highly regarded renewable technology is solar PV. Adam Ritchie of Max Fordham LLP reckoned that the maximum total annual solar radiation in London (1,045 kWh/sq m/year) is obtained from mounting a PV on a surface oriented due south at a tilt of 31 degrees; 80 per cent is achieved if the array is tilted at 78 degrees.

The makeup of the PV tiles is important – mono crystalline is better for the UK and poly crystalline better for Mediterranean climates, while thin film technology (TFT) PV arrays work better with diffuse radiation technologies. Ritchie points to the first scheme to pass through the Mayor of London’s plans as a 300 dwelling mixed use site - a former bottling store being converted to commercial offices, primary care trust health centre, shops and the dwellings, which provide the bulk of energy demands. One particular call from the industry has concerned the need for a workshop to assist in filling out the cumbersome grant application forms. Actually there are organisations that can help out already and contactable through CIBSE and BRE. There is almost a tangible feel to the growing keenness and positive attitude to the implementation of renewables, along with the healthy approach to funding. This can only be positive, indeed excellent, news.
● Frank Booty is a freelance writer

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