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13 January 2012 | Helen Gilbert
UK council buyers have been urged to thoroughly scrutinise green technology suppliers to ensure the equipment they provide is robust and up-to-scratch.
The call was made after Sheffield Hallam University researchers revealed that many local authorities were failing to understand how green technology works and investing in equipment without knowing which are the most efficient.
The two-year study found that social housing providers were installing renewable energy technologies such as solar thermal panels and ground source heat pumps as a way of tackling fuel poverty and reducing carbon emissions, but said it was not yet clear which were the most efficient.
The research, funded by the Eaga Charitable Trust, showed social housing providers were adopting a ‘fit and forget’ approach. This had resulted in under-performing systems, and diminished financial savings for residents, it said.
Dr Fin O'Flaherty, one of the authors of the research told SM: “Monitoring of the technologies is the key to success. Buyers can be looking for evidence from the supplier that the technology they are supplying is trustworthy and has worked successfully elsewhere in the past.”
O’Flaherty warned that the way in which past schemes had been funded – often through grants – meant there had been no provision for ongoing performance monitoring and system maintenance.
In some cases residents may not be aware that a component has failed and could end up spending more money, he said.
"The introduction of government subsidies, such as the Feed-in-Tariff scheme, means 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,” O’Flaherty added.