By the Numbers

A new online tool calculates the benefits of the U.K.’s Renewable Heat Incentive.
By Lisa Gibson | August 23, 2011

With increased interest in the U.K.’s Renewable Heat Incentive, The Mersey Forest has developed a free online tool to determine the payback for users interested in the program.

The RHI is designed to help the U.K. meet its renewable energy goal of 15 percent by 2020. It’s based on the amount of heat used, not the amount generated, and is intended for use by public and private sectors, charities and other users of all scales. The U.K.’s Department of Energy & Climate Change has released the details of the program, the money has been allocated and the primary legislation is making its way through Parliament.

The calculator works under two scenarios. It will determine potential income streams based on current heat usage, or calculate the paybacks if the user is switching from a fossil fuel system to woody biomass and knows the capital installation cost figures. It is designed to also calculate how quickly the users’ boilers will pay for themselves, the expected difference in annual fuel bills, and what return they could see after 20 years.

The tool is geared mostly toward woody biomass, says Nigel Blandford of The Mersey Forest Team. “However, the RHI as a whole, very interestingly, does accept a range of fuels,” he adds, citing municipal solid waste.

So far, the calculator has found that areas off the gas grid and plants that produce over 1 MW have the most attractive paybacks. Not all areas in the U.K. have been added to the calculator, as the necessary data in most cases is well-guarded, Blandford says.

The Mersey Forest is a network of woodlands and green spaces spread across Cheshire and Merseyside. “By building both supply of and demand for wood fuel in Merseyside and Cheshire, The Mersey Forest is working to not only support the local economy, but also show how sustainable renewable fuel can be part of the solution to climate change and energy security,” Blandford says.

—Lisa Gibson