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Garden centres told to exploit subsidy

Government subsidies for installing biomass boilers are ‘too good to be true’, consultants advise.

Garden centres told to exploit subsidy 

Garden centres should consider installing biomass heating systems
now while Government subsidies are still offering returns that are “too
good to be true”, consultants have urged.

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), introduced as part of a
Government drive to meet a target of 15 per cent of the country’s energy
coming from renewable sources by 2020, pays businesses that switch to
biomass heating for 20 years.

As uptake grows, the amount paid will start to decrease for those who
have not already commissioned boilers as part of a process called
“degression”, designed to keep the overall cost down.

Andrew Sanders, director at biomass consultant Mi-Generation, said
the worst-case scenario would be a 15 per cent reduction in the rate
paid out to those that wait to switch until the end of 2014.

Uncertainty over fossil fuel prices coupled with the benefits of the
RHI mean now is the time for garden centres to make the switch, said
Sanders. “For those who have switched, the incentive is currently so
high it is equivalent to having their heating bill paid by the
Government for 20 years,” he added.

Pentland Biomass head of sales and marketing Shiona MacMillan said
there is a great income to be had from the RHI. “It’s too good to be
true. There are number of funding options – the Carbon Trust, banks and
other lenders interested because of the 20-year return.”

MacMillan recommended choosing an installation company that has
experience on projects of a similar scale and visiting biomass boilers
at other garden centres. She also suggested outsourcing the RHI
application, which is “not straightforward”.

Pentland Plants was one of the first horticultural businesses to
install biomass heating and has since set up the Pentland Biomass
consultancy. It worked with local business Dunbar Garden Centre on the
installation of a pellet-fuelled biomass boiler in 2013.

Managing director Nick Crabbie said the process went smoothly but
would recommend other garden centres ensure that design, equipment
provision, installation and servicing can all be carried out by a single

“The boiler is backed up by two gas boilers installed by another
company,” he said. “It would have been better to have one supplier and
installer for all boilers, buffer tank and pipework.”

Crabbie added that the RHI application was “difficult and
time-consuming”. The boiler has now been running for a year and Dunbar
is still awaiting RHI payments.

Biomass Trelawney takes up the incentive

Cornwall-based Trelawney installed a 200kW biomass boiler at its Wadebridge garden centre in March this year.

Director David Danning said the automated system, which heats the
whole garden centre and provides hot water for the restaurant is “very

“It’s taken a while to get the whole thing balanced, but it has been quite smooth,” he added.

The boiler is fuelled by woodchips from timber collected within 20
miles of the centre. It was installed by local company Cleanearth, which
also handled the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) application.

Trelawney paid for the boiler – rather than opting for a scheme
offering a free boiler offered by many suppliers – to get the full
benefit of the RHI.

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