A Warm Welcome for RHI Ireland

A Warm Welcome for RHI Ireland, by Steve Luker, Principal Consultant

Steve Luker, Principal ConsultantMinister Naughten has just announced details about the RHI in Ireland, and we now know there are going to be four bands of payments for biomass produced heat.

The first 300/MWh will be paid at €56.60/MWh, the next 700MWh will be at €30.20/MWh, the next 9,000/MWh at €5.00/MWh and a final 40,000/MWh at €3.70/MWh. There are no payments above 50,000/MWh.

This is quite different from the GB and Northern Irish RHI schemes. To me this seems to be a sophisticated and sensible approach as there is no incentive to over or under size systems, or ‘sweet spots’ that have undermined schemes elsehwere. The size of systems can be dependent upon the heat load and its profile, as it should be. It is clear that the designers of the Irish RHI have learnt the lessons from the GB and Northern Ireland schemes, we should welcome this.

When thinking about the market opportunities, applications such as hospitals, hotels, schools and care homes should represent good places to start. Even better will be swimming pools that have lower peak loads, and base load applications should be attractive in all circumstances.  The trick will be to maximise the 1,000MWh covered by the two highest tariffs and make best use of the capital invested through running installations of around 300kW to 400kW at about 3,000 full load hours. Installations such as this can secure the €38,000 annually offered by the two highest tariffs, whereas a year a MW of capacity running at 1,000 full load hours only secures the same income – but would clearly cost a lot more to install.

Although the devil will inevitably be in the detail, this scheme should be warmly welcomed by the industry and its potential customers. It is great to say it should help drive sensible design and investment choices and maximise the cost effective replacement of fossil fuel heat.


Barkers of Northallerton on choosing biomass and re:heat

Barkers Distribution Centre

Barkers of Northallerton is going green with a custom designed, environmentally friendly heating system, thanks to the expertise of Alnwick firm, re:heat.

The Barkers Home store on Yafforth Road is renowned across North Yorkshire and beyond for selling exceptional furniture, furnishings and fittings. Deliveries are a vital part of the operation and that’s where the Distribution Warehouse on Standard Way in Northallerton comes in.

Sean Spence, Distribution Manager, explains “We wanted an environmentally friendly heating system to maintain the ideal, constant temperature for furniture storage. re:heat, North East based biomass energy specialists and Heating engineer Gary Oliver, from Darlington, worked together to design and install a 350kW woodchip boiler, creating one of the most sophisticated furniture storage and handling facilities in the country.”

Ben Tansey of re:heat said “Working with Barkers and with Gary was fantastic. We were delighted to get the opportunity to team up with this iconic local firm. The new boiler is working perfectly and it’s great to hear that the distribution centre team are pleased with it too.”

Gary Oliver, Managing Director of G A Oliver Ltd, agreed saying“Barkers were a pleasure to work with and the project went extremely well.”

Find out more about what Barkers has to offer by visiting the website: Gary Oliver and his team can be reached online at

Neil Harrison and Ben Tansey founded re:heat in 2011 to assist businesses of all sizes with converting to sustainable, low carbon wood fuel heating systems

Modern heating developments take centre stage at National Trust property

Wallington Hall re-sized

The public is invited to find out more about the National Trust’s progress in substantially reducing carbon emissions at its properties.

The historic mansion house and gardens of Wallington Hall estate in Northumberland have seen some dramatic changes behind the scenes over the past few months. The Wallington biomass district heating scheme involves introducing the very latest in green technology to the 17th century premises, a development which supports the National Trust’s environmental commitments.

The Trust aims to substantially reduce carbon emissions at its properties by switching to more renewable energy sources and to deliver 50 per cent of its energy from renewables by 2020.

On Thursday 6 July, the Wallington estate will hold an open day to allow the public to see more of this complex and ambitious project. The cutting-edge scheme has seen the installation of two 130kw wood pellet fired biomass boilers, which now provide heat and hot water to the main hall, estate cottages, offices, gift shop and café.

The open day coincides with other events to mark Community Energy Fortnight (24 June – 9 July) and the Climate Coalition’s Week of Action (1 – 9 July), under what is being called the ‘Powering Together’ initiative. The aim is to highlight and explore how the community energy sector is working together to ensure energy is efficiently used, generated renewably and any benefits produced shared locally.

The work at Wallington has been carried out by North East-based biomass specialist, re:heat which was appointed by the National Trust in December 2016 to remove the estate’s inefficient oil fired boilers and install the renewable fueled heating and hot water system. It is not the first time that re:heat has worked with the National Trust, having installed two wood pellet fired biomass boilers at Nunnington Hall, near York, in summer 2016.

Ben Tansey, re:heat director, said:

“We were delighted to be working with the National Trust again and this has been an exciting project to be involved with. Wallington is a sensitive site, steeped in history, so there were some unique challenges to overcome to provide the best possible heating solution without adversely impacting on the existing building and grounds.

“We’re pleased with what we have been able to accomplish here and the benefits that the new system will provide the National Trust long term.”

National Trust project manager, Adrian Fox, said:

“In addition to reducing impact on the environment by removing the oil powered heating systems, switching to biomass affords us a level of security in no longer responding to fluctuating oil prices and the money saved can be used in the continued conservation of the property.”

If you are interested in the open day and would like to find out more, please call re:heat on 01665 665 040 or email


Biomass Engineer Vacancy

A new opportunity has arisen with re:heat.  Ideally based in Northumberland, but working across the UK, we are looking for a Biomass Engineer with 3 or more years previous experience and an electrical bias.  The ideal candidate will be able to contribute enthusiastically to the wide variety of opportunities that re:heat are actively working on – from boiler installations through to consultancy, and providing first class support to our many customers across the north of England and Scotland.

The successful candidate would be primarily based at our office in Alnwick, but be willing and able to travel as required by the role.  We would also consider suitable candidates who may not be based in, or be willing to relocate to Northumberland.

The duties of the Biomass Engineer will include :

  • Installation and commissioning of biomass boilers throughout the UK.
  • Providing phone support to customers and other engineers working on fault finding.
  • Working on domestic, commercial and industrial biomass boilers.
  • Working independently for small commercial and domestic jobs.
  • Working as part of a team to assist in the installation of large commercial and industrial projects.
  • Carrying out programmes of remedial work on third party installations.
  • Servicing and maintaining customers’ biomass boilers.

For the role of Biomass Engineer, the candidate is expected to :

  • Ideally, have prior experience of installation and commissioning of biomass boilers.
  • Be electrically biased, and be able to fault find electrical and control systems.
  • Be experienced on biomass boiler controls and their integration with heating control systems.
  • Be prepared to work long hours when necessary, as well as travel throughout the UK.

Candidates with experience of working on ETA, Fröling and Herz equipment would be at a particular advantage, but we work with a wide range of systems from other manufacturers, and full  training would be provided.

If you would be interested in joining a small, friendly company with an excellent reputation, and growing within the biomass industry, please contact Ben Tansey ( for an informal and confidential discussion.

We offer a competitive salary and contributory pension scheme, training with leading manufacturers and a varied and stimulating work environment.

Historic National Trust estate will feel the heat from 21st century technology

Wallington Hall estate in Northumberland, a historic mansion house and gardens dating back to the 17th century is set to be heated by the latest green technology.

Following a competitive tender process, North East-based biomass specialist, re:heat has been appointed to remove the estate’s inefficient oil fired boilers and install a cost-effective renewable fuelled heating and hot water system.

Owner the National Trust have appointed re:heat to deliver the project as part of its environmental commitment to substantially reduce carbon emissions at its properties by switching to more renewable energy sources and deliver 50 per cent of its energy from renewables by 2020.

The complex project will see the installation of two 130kw wood pellet fired biomass boilers which will deliver heat and hot water to the main hall, estate cottages, offices, gift shop and café.

This is the second time the National Trust has appointed re:heat to install renewable heating technology and oversee the removal of oil from one of its sites.

In August this year the re:heat team installed two wood pellet fired biomass boilers at Nunnington Hall, near York. Ben Tansey, re:heat director, said: “We are delighted to be working with the National Trust again. They are a prestigious client and Wallington is a sensitive site, steeped in history with a high specification in order to meet its present and future needs.”

Wallington Hall was originally built by Sir William Blackett around the core of an earlier medieval house and pele tower. Blackett was a wealthy shipping magnate and mine owner from Newcastle, and he intended Wallington to be a country retreat.

In 1777 the Blackett line died out and the estate passed to the Trevelyan family, who created a magnificent walled garden, reached by sinuous paths through the woodland. Sir Walter Trevelyan was an avid plant collector and he gathered a collection of rare species from around the globe.

National Trust project manager, Adrian Fox, said: “This is a major project with multiple drivers for us and we are looking forward to working again with re:heat to deliver it. Most of the work will be done while the estate is open which means it has to be managed around visitors, staff and regular deliveries and we know re:heat can handle these challenges.

“In addition to reducing impact on the environment by removing the oil powered system, switching to biomass affords us a level of security in no longer responding to fluctuating oil prices and the money saved can be used in the continued conservation of the property.”

re:heat was founded in 2011 by Neil Harrison and Ben Tansey to assist businesses of all sizes convert from fossil fuels to sustainable, low carbon wood fuel heating systems. The firm’s team of experts can help clients with buying a boiler, designing systems, fuel supply logistics and material handling, fault-finding and problem resolution, and specialist training.

The 2016 non-domestic RHI reform and biomass heat

I think any comments about the RHI reform should start with the point that we are very lucky to have a 20 year output-based, state funded support mechanism for renewable heat.  Whatever its foibles and whatever our quibbles; its better than not having state funded support; it has made a major difference and will continue to do so.

The background to the reforms was that in November 2015 Government renewed its commitment to the ‘transition to a low carbon economy’ by confirming a continued budget for the RHI out to 2020/21.  This left the biomass industry hanging, and it wasn’t until March 2016 that Government set out its initial proposals for RHI reform.  Then finally on 14th December 2016, it published proposals for reform of the scheme following its consultation. These reforms will be implemented in April 2017.

Those 12 months of uncertainty have been unhelpful to say the least.  But as Government puts it :

By confirming the available budget up to 2020/21 and setting out a number of reforms to how the scheme will operate, the RHI now provides the level of certainty needed for consumers and industry to invest in renewable heating and for the market to transition towards being sustainable without Government support in future’.

It is of course most welcome that the proposed RHI reform is published and uncertainty has been removed.  This in itself will probably stimulate new investment and no doubt activate some dormant projects.  Although it is ironic that a scheme designed to grow renewable heat created uncertainty and reduced investment for a whole year.

The final comment ‘without Government support in the future’ is a clear signal that the RHI is not likely to be around after 2021, but as even mature biomass sectors elsewhere in Europe still benefit from support, there will need to be something post 2021.

In more specific terms, the reforms offer two things of note in terms of biomass heat :

  • Tariff guarantees, offering investors greater certainty regarding their tariffs earlier in the project cycle;
  • The three current biomass tariff bands will be replaced with a single tariff, which will be subject to tiering.  The Tier 1 tariff will be set at 2.91p/kWh and the Tier 2 tariff at 2.05p/kWh. Each plant will have a tier threshold equivalent to a 35% load factor.

My own immediate reaction was these reforms spell would spell the end of smaller biomass projects in mains gas areas and that only projects above 1MW would be strongly viable. But the 35% load factor is a more significant change than is first apparent.

Under the new single tariff and a 35% load factor the capacity of the biomass boiler is not such a good indicator of the viability as it was under the three bands of payments.

What will matter now is higher stable heat loads that get to the 3,000 full load hours. For example a 200kW scheme providing 600MWh of total annual heat (a small or medium sized secondary school for example) will get £17,500 a year RHI income.  Remember under the old scheme a 199KW scheme delivering 1,314 run hours got £8,106 a year RHI income: its all about ‘sweating the asset’.

It will be interesting to see how designers and installers go about getting to 3,000 run hours, and this will have significant implications for the sizing and specification of equipment that is capable and warrantied for longer harder working hours.  But actually it feels a sensible move in terms of directing investment and design/specification choices to make the most difference.  It will certainly be better than the 3 bands it replaces.

Furthermore the impact of the reforms above 1MW is unambiguously positive compared to before, so despite my initial reaction, I find myself wishing to congratulate the team who delivered the RHI reform.  Maybe there is even scope for a little focus of quality standards as we move forward?


The full RHI reform document is available to download here.

Delivering Renewable Heat – what have targets got to do with it?

Renewable Heat Targets by Steve Luker, Principal Consultant

Back in 2009 we set ourselves some very interesting renewables targets for 2020.  I never quite forgot them, but maybe others did? Theoretically of course they are binding, and you’ll certainly never hear a politician express a scintilla of doubt about this or that policy that will help us meet these targets.  But they get closer everyday.

So as we are only 4 years away, I wanted to examine where we are with the Renewable Heat Target and the role of biomass heat in delivering this.  For this blog I decided to focus on Scotland, as there is some interesting new data that allows a clear focus on this.

For some reason never made clear to me, the Scottish Renewable Heat Target for 2020 is 11%, whereas the UKs target is 12%.  If anyone knows why I’d be interested.

Beyond the obvious question of whether we will actually meet the 11% target, it’s particularly interesting as the Scottish Government is embarking on an energy review and is setting out its objectives for post-2020.  Here’s my attempt to make sense of where we are now.

What do our Renewable Heat Targets imply?

If the Scottish Renewable Heat Target is going to be met by 2020, then 6,420GWhs of annual renewable heat output are needed by that date. At present, Scotland produces 3,031GWhs of renewable heat annually.  Biomass heat contributes 1,716GWhs of that total at present, and biomass CHP contributes most of the rest.

We can roughly calculate how many heat only biomass installations 1,716GWhs is equal to, as each MW of installed capacity provides around 2,600MWhs of heat output.  On that basis, the current biomass heat output represents roughly 660MW’s of installed capacity.  If it is helpful, that’s a bit like 1½ Eon Lockerbie biomass power stations spread over several thousand schools, care homes, swimming pools, rural estates and hospitals.

In present day cash terms it represents £561 million of investment in renewable heat capacity, which I’d say has taken around 15 years to deliver.  A great achievement, if somewhat modest compared to many other northern European countries.

Now, here’s the important bit:

If we simply assume biomass heat will constitute the same proportion of our renewable heat in 2020 (57%), and that the 6,420GWhs of heat is actually provided (the 11% target); then an additional 2,000GWhs of biomass heat must be provided by 2020.  I should say to assume biomass CHP provides a bit more is perfectly reasonable, but if you ‘do the math’ on all other forms of renewable heat (heat pumps and AD), you’ll quickly see they can’t deliver anything like what is needed – never mind making up any biomass shortfall.  In other words, biomass heat may well need to be more than 57%, but lets stick with this figure for now…

192 New MW a Year

So biomass heat has a key role to play in meeting our Renewable Heat Target, and for modelling purposes this can be split into 4 years, which requires 500GWhs of biomass heat output to be added annually.

That means 192MWs of new installed capacity must be added each year for 4 years.

Having got this far, I began to sense a ‘few issues’ about the scale of that challenge…

We know that 1MW of good quality biomass heat capacity costs about £850,000 to install.  As we need 192MWs a year, that requires annual capital investment to run at £163 million for 4 years in row, and £652 million in total : more than has been achieved in the last 15 years combined.

If we assume an average installation size of 250kW, it means 768 installation contracts a year, each worth about £212,500.  Bringing that down to monthly figures it comes to 64 installs a month with a monthly spend rate of £13.6 million.

Typically, each MW of biomass heat capacity creates 2 FTE jobs, so around 1,500 new jobs would be created if 2,000GWhs of biomass heat were produced. In employment terms that would make the sector over 10 times bigger than it is now.

Each scheme will take around 4 to 6 months to plan, design and install. Biomass heat installs require a range of design and contracting skills in M&E, civils, architecture, engineering and a co-ordination expert in biomass to oversee this.

Can we achieve our targets?

There are no reliable figures on how many companies are involved in the design and installation of biomass heat just now.  My own guess is that we have around 10 to 15 specialist biomass companies based in or operating in Scotland, with fewer than 150 direct employees in total. Many others are involved in services like M&E design and civils works, and get involved biomass heat installations alongside their day to day civils contracting, heating and plumbing etc.

Total sector capacity could probably expand quite quickly, but key skills shortages in specialist areas like biomass boiler specification/commissioning and fuel handling  system design will hamper progress.  However, even if demand were to actually run at 64 x 250kW installs a month, it is hard to see how the required capacity could be mobilised sufficiently quickly (i.e. early on in the 4 years we have remaining).

I have reached the clear conclusion that unless things change, the Scottish Government will fall way short of its 2020 renewable heat target.  I do have some thoughts on what could be done to help.  More to follow next week…

National Trust historic home enjoys 21st Century heat

An historic mansion housing one of the world’s finest collections of antique miniatures is reaping the benefits of being heated by the latest in 21st Century green technology.

Northumberland-based re:heat has installed two wood pellet fired biomass boilers to supply renewable heat to keep visitors, staff and the valuable collections in Nunnington Hall, near York, at the optimal temperature.

When pellets are not actually pellets

Cheap ‘Pellets’ – do they actually provide a saving, even in the short term?

When the re:heat engineers were asked if they could come and help with a re-commission of a boiler operating on a cheap batch of ‘wood pellets’ we responded with a cautious ‘well, we’ll come and have a look and see what we can do’.  As a customer focussed business, keen as ever to keep our clients happy, we thought we’d call in and take a look……… take a look at what we found: