Local authorities are seen as front runners of the government’s renewable energy strategy and, therefore, the use of renewable technology has become an important consideration in any new planning decisions.
Air source heat pumps (ASHPs) and Ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) offer a straightforward way to incorporate cost effective, renewable energy into a building, both reducing carbon emissions and helping local authorities to meet government requirements. A number of local authorities now apply the ‘Merton Rule’.
The Merton Rule is a planning policy, pioneered by the London Borough of Merton in 2003, which requires new developments to generate at least 10% of their energy needs from onsite renewable energy installations.
The Merton Rule has subsequently become a part of national planning policy and the commonly accepted threshold used by local planning authorities, academic institutions and other professional bodies is 10 homes or 1,000m2 of non-residential development. The Merton Rule applies to all new buildings, not just housing, and therefore includes schools, supermarkets, retail outlets, office blocks, leisure centres, libraries and other buildings.
ASHPs and GSHPs also fall under the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme, to encourage property owners to install renewable energy equipment. The first phase, aimed at the non-domestic sector, came into force in November 2011.
Any building not used as a domestic property is currently eligible under the scheme and this applies to schools, municipal buildings and social housing schemes. RHI offers a financial incentive for eligible non-domestic renewable energy technologies for the lifetime of the installation up to a maximum of 20 years. This makes the installation of renewable energy technology, such as heat pumps, a good investment in terms of both energy savings and reduced fuel costs, both of which can be passed on to local residents.