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The power of up-close and personal

Low carbon heating techs are demonstrated ‘live’ to home-owners – and micro-CHP proves very popular.

As part of Delta-ee’s Microgen Insight Service, 36 intrepid UK home-owners came to the Baxi UK test lab in Warwick in July this year. They had been prepared for the evening by reading a description of five low carbon or renewable heating technologies, prepared by Delta-ee. During the evening they were shown examples of these products running in a test facility, and had the chance to ask questions.

At the start of the sessions, the participants were asked about their attitudes towards the technologies, and whether they could see themselves installing one (or any of them) in their home. At this initial stage, air source heat pumps (ASHP) were generally the preferred technology.

But following live demonstration of each of the products, during which time people also had the chance to ask questions from the expert demonstrator, this picture had changed dramatically. Micro-CHP’s popularity had soared by the end of the demos, based on the design they were shown.

So what made micro-CHP so appealing?

Among the top reasons given were:

  • It doesn’t take up much space: people could see it fitting into their homes, in the place of the current boiler.
  • It can be fitted without making significant changes to the home. Customers said they were less interested in having a heat pump (ground source or air source) once they were told there was a chance they might have to upgrade their radiators.
  • They liked the idea of being paid to generate electricity via the Feed-in Tariff. The rising popularity of solar PV over in the UK, thanks to the Feed-in Tariff, has probably helped here, in warming people up to the idea that they can be paid for generating electricity. However, since these focus groups, the Government has announced a consultation on the FiT (announced on Friday 28th August) – which might make this less of a selling point in the future.

 So what 3 things can the micro-CHP industry learn from this?

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What’s bad for PV may be good for energy storage in the UK

As DECC moves closer to throttling the UK’s Solar PV industry through the proposed massive reduction in feed-in tariffs (FITs), could this actually be good news for the country’s nascent energy storage industry? Although focusing on self-consumption risks missing much of the prize for energy storage – which is the value energy storage can unlock across the energy system – it could provide a short term boost to the sector.

Currently the owner of a solar PV installation financially benefits in two ways: FIT payments and lower electricity bills (i.e. from self-consumption). Going back to 2010, FIT payments accounted for up to 90% of a customer’s financial return because the FIT subsidy was around 43 pence per kWh (p/kWh) in comparison to a retail electric price of around 12-13 p/kWh. This could be one reason why DECC took the ‘deeming’ approach to export generation where it is assumed that 50% of the generation from residential Solar PV is exported to the grid. (Although no one really seems to know: another theory is that it was the last item on an overly long meeting on a Friday afternoon in Whitehall!).

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