It might seem to many people that the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) has been on the political agenda for a very long time and to be fair, it has taken many years of planning to eventually get to the stage where it is available to domestic users. That time came on 9th April 2014 – two years after it was open to commercial businesses.

In simple terms, the RHI is a payment that is made to owners of renewable sources of domestic heating such as air and ground source heat pumps, certain back boiler systems, biomass systems and solar thermal panels.

Current tariffs (August 2014)

The current rates per kilowatt of energy produced are 7.3p for air source, 12.2p for biomass, 18.8 for ground source and 19.2 for solar thermal.

On the 10th November 2014, changes to the RHI domestic payment system (and in particular the eligibility criteria) were announced by the Department of Energy and Climate Change and are expected to come into force in the Spring of 2015. The changes were based on the feedback they received from domestic users since April and the draft proposals are subject to approval. The changes are as follows:

Green Deal Assessments and social landlords

All domestic RHI applicants are required to have an assessment of their home carried out before they can apply. It has been acknowledged that social landlords are usually well informed on their property with regards to its energy efficiency. It was found that many didn’t want to take up renewable heating options because of the concerns over getting assessments of multiple properties. Social landlords will now only need to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) that is less than 2 years old to be able to apply.

Cooker stoves

This form of heating is now eligible for the RHI as long as they are designed to be used primarily for heating or hot water, but can also be used for cooking. Anything designed for cooking as its first function cannot get the RHI. Sometimes these are referred to as biomass stoves with back boilers.

High Temperature Heat Pumps

These are similar to air source heat pumps, but can operate at much higher temperatures of up to 80 degrees Celsius. They are able to be used in homes with radiators, rather than underfloor heating. There is a short window of one year to apply for the RHI if your system is already installed.

The Microgeneration Certification Scheme

There will be new standards published for this scheme for the installation of solar thermal and heat pumps. While the old standards are still in place, it is possible to apply for the RHI under those guidelines – however once the new rules are in place there will be a transition period.

Multiple buildings

Properties where there is more than one building or dwelling under the same heating system such as a home with a swimming pool building, a garage or office, the RHI will be based on the heat demand of the EPC of the main building. Heat going to other buildings is not covered. However if the other building is used as a commercial property, the owner can apply separately under the non-domestic scheme. If multiple homes are using the same system (such as a community scheme) the RHI can be claimed as non-domestic.

These new rules are only likely to affect a small number of claimants and for the most part the system as it currently is running will remain the same. However it is worth reminding yourself of the claiming dates of up to April 2015 – depending on when your system was installed. If it is not yet installed, you have one year from the commissioning date to apply.