Sustainable building association warns that government plans could lead to higher carbon emissions

The government’s scheme to incentivise renewable heat generation has come under attack as it could lead to higher carbon dioxide emissions.

The sustainable building association, the AECB, is warning that the proposed Renewable Heat Incentive is so badly designed that in some circumstances it actually pays people to install systems that burn more fossil fuel and thereby emit more CO2.

Measure put forward by the Department of Energy and Climate Change in the Renewable Heat Incentive include subsidising electrically powered systems such as air source heat pumps which are often associated with higher CO2 emissions than an A-rated gas boiler, especially when used with an existing radiator system.

Andrew Simmonds, chief exeuctive of the AECB, says: “Trying to cut emissions and increase energy security by rewarding heat consumption is like trying to lose weight by eating ever more low calorie biscuits. If you want to succeed the biscuits have to replace, not supplement, your over-rich diet, likewise the renewable heat has to replace, not simply add to, the fossil fuel the nation is using.

According to the AECB, paying people for heat used - however inefficiently - rather than for energy saved or renewable energy generated or harvested - is illogical, and reduces the incentive to be efficient and thereby save carbon. Even biomass as a heat source has an associated CO2 burden.

The AECB also says the proposals are made worse because there is no precondition for buildings or equipment to be made energy efficient before the subsidy is claimed and that the surest way to increase energy security is to design for less energy consumption in the first place.