Innovate to save

Article written by James Higgins published originally in the May edition of  H&V News Magazine.

A few months ago I talked about the innovation opportunities emerging as a result of the Westminster Government’s Clean Growth Strategy. Over the Easter period, the latest initiative in this area was announced as part of the next phase of the main fuel poverty intervention scheme, the Energy Company Obligation (ECO).

Many readers will be familiar with the ECO scheme which provides funding support for the installation of energy saving measures (including boiler replacements, loft and cavity wall insulation) in eligible homes across the UK. The current phase of ECO concludes this Autumn and new regulations are required for the next three and a half year phase to begin in October 2018. A consultation was launched by BEIS on Good Friday with proposals on how the latest version of the scheme will work.

Headlines include moving the scheme to focus almost exclusively on fuel poverty. BEIS also propose to allow broken heating systems to be replaced up to a cap equivalent to 35,000 heating systems per year (an increase from 25,000 in the ECO2t). Oil Boilers have been removed from the list of eligible measures whilst there are measures to encourage installation of first time central heating.

Turning to innovation, BEIS has included an option for energy suppliers to spend up to 20% of their total obligation on innovative measures. This is equivalent to £128 million per annum which could be spent demonstrating and delivering new innovations for energy efficiency within homes.

I was fortunate recently to attend an event focussed on innovation within ECO and was astounded at the range of potential innovations which could be applied to reduce energy consumption within the typical home. Notable examples included robots which can deliver hassle-free under-floor insulation, clear sealants to reduce moisture within brickwork (and therefore thermal conductivity) and low cost (£25) devices which can prevent drafts escaping through the chimney.

A number of innovations more closely associated with the HVAC industry could also be eligible for ECO innovation. Possibilities include Smart Heating Controls, Shower Heat Recovery, Flue Gas Heat Recovery and Fuel Cell CHP. An internet-connected smart airbrick could also help control airflow within your home in future.

It will be very interesting to see how the enthusiasm for innovation translates into action. I have some concerns over the complexity of the ECO scheme and willingness of energy suppliers to invest in and engage with small, often start-up organisations. However if it can be achieved, there appears to be huge potential to develop products which offer a benefit to energy consumers whilst also supporting growth for UK businesses.

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See the original article from H&V here