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Housing providers 'install renewables without understanding'

Social housing providers are installing renewable energy without a complete understanding of its potential.

The Centre for Infrastructure Management at Sheffield Hallam says renewable energy technologies, such as photovoltaic arrays, solar thermal panels and ground source heat pumps, are increasingly being used by social housing providers to help alleviate fuel poverty and reduce carbon emissions, but to date it was not clear which technologies were most cost-effective.

"Recent figures show that up to one in four households in the UK are in fuel poverty,” said Dr Fin O'Flaherty, one of the authors of the research.

“Many local authorities and housing associations have begun installing renewable energy technologies on their properties in a bid to address this problem.

"While we applaud them for this and appreciate their motivations, our report has found that there is often a limited understanding of how the technologies perform in use or what levels of savings are being delivered to residents."

Many schemes in the past were installed with grant funding, without provision for ongoing performance monitoring and system maintenance

The introduction of government subsidies such as the Feed-in-Tariff mean that payback periods for renewable energy technologies have fallen and social housing providers have begun to adopt a more long-term attitude toward their schemes.

However, under-performing and malfunctioning renewable energy technologies will result in a reduction in income for social housing providers and undermine the economics of schemes.

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