Column: Letting people know about renewables

Isoenergy column
Isoenergy column

By Justin Broadbent, founder and chairman of Isoenergy in Horley.

We recently held an open day at ISOenergy, to give people the chance to find out more about domestic and non-domestic renewable energy sources, how we install them, the benefits and pitfalls, and how everything works in practice.

Isoenergy chairman Justin Broadbent

Isoenergy chairman Justin Broadbent

Thankfully the rain held off, and we were also able to complete a number of site tours - and show off some of the kit - without getting wet. It was a great opportunity for me to field questions from those with an interest in what we do and, importantly, to get a feel for the pressing issues on their minds, too. During my talk, I told our delegates – and I make no bones about it – that, compared to fossil fuel alternatives, the installation of a renewable energy source is expensive. This may come as a surprise to some, but the truth of the matter is, while renewable energy is a morally sound option, and in some cases offers an excellent return on investment, ground source heat pumps and biomass boiler systems don’t come cheap.

For some, the cost of coming off the National Grid can seem insurmountable, the price of self sufficiency too high. All is not lost, though. To meet increasing demand, certain lenders have begun launching products specifically designed for those wishing to finance renewable technology installations. As demand increases further, we can only expect that finance options will become more varied and, in the end, cheaper. Depending on your motivation and what you are prepared to entertain in terms of outlay and finance, there are an ever increasing number of ways that independency from the Grid can now be achieved. Generally speaking, larger properties benefit most from the financial models on the market, because they are more likely to be eligible for the non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive scheme (RHI). In these cases, lenders are able to offer some very attractive finance options to fund the initial installation of a ground source heat pump or biomassboiler system. Those looking for a return on investment need to be sure that their installation will produce an amount of energy large enough to meet their own needs while also generating sufficient surplus to deliver a subsidy income that covers any loan and interest repayments.

For some, this just isn’t viable. In those cases, the worst thing you can do is to attempt to beat the system (I’m looking at you, Stephen Brimstone).

With the enquiry into the ex-DUP adviser heating up this week, the spotlight has been shone on the RHI scheme and the strict regulations around it. Mr Brimstone was using a boiler on the non-domestic scheme to heat his home, which is not permitted. To say that he has landed himself in hot water is something of an understatement.

Cheating is never the best way to get what you want, and there are plenty of options out there for those who want to implement renewable energy, even if the funds are not immediately available.

My advice? Speak to a specialist early on, and get a realistic idea of what is and is not achievable given your specific circumstances. Sometimes it’s worth taking the plunge, and sometimes you are better off remaining as you are, but it’s always worth knowing you’re doing the right thing.