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Renewable Heat Incentive

Volume 536: debated on Thursday 1 December 2011

8. What assessment he has made of the potential benefits of the renewable heat incentive for rural and remote households. (83969)

The renewable heat premium payment, the initial heat support scheme launched on 1 August, is targeted at off-gas-grid homes, particularly those in rural and remote areas. It is too early to make an accurate assessment of the benefits, but we intend to evaluate them fully next year to feed into developing future support for renewable heat.

The Minister will be aware that 8% of UK households rely on oil for their central heating, many of which are in rural and remote communities, and that many people who use oil central heating are the frail elderly and people on fixed incomes. When he consults on the feed-in tariffs, will he look into the advantages of biofuels as a means of both driving down carbon emissions and supporting lower energy bills in rural communities?

My hon. Friend makes some excellent points. Sustainably sourced biofuels for electricity, including bioliquids, are already supported under the renewables obligation, but they are not currently supported by the feed-in tariffs. We will launch phase 2 of the feed-in tariff comprehensive review, which will consider their potential expansion to new technologies such as bioliquids. I certainly take his points on board.

Does the Minister consider that the renewable heat incentive makes sufficient provision for the encouragement of domestic and small-scale combined heat and power boilers, which are particularly appropriate to off-grid households but may not be fully covered by the provisions of the RHI because they are not necessarily supplied by fully biogas-based sources? Is he willing to investigate that and consider whether the RHI could support such devices to a better extent?

I am very willing to do so indeed. The RHI has not been launched in full for domestic appliances—we are currently trialling it with the RHPP—but I am keen to support micro-CHP in the way that the hon. Gentleman suggests. He is an expert on this area and I would be happy to work with him to see what further support we need to drive forward this exciting technology.