A NEW Government scheme encouraging rural home owners to switch to renewable heating systems has been criticised as something that will only help Hampshire’s richest residents.

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is designed to reduce carbon emissions with switchers offered payments for heat generated through pumps and biomass boilers over seven years. But OFTEC, a trade body for oil central heating, claims 21,000 Hampshire homes will miss out because the systems are too costly and impractical to install.

Depending on the property, the current costs of installing systems covered by RHI start at around £7,000 for an air source heat pump ranging up to £19,000 for a wood pellet boiler.

Jeremy Hawksley, director general of OFTEC, said: “At face value it sounds attractive, but it is likely to be too expensive and impractical for all but the wealthiest homeowners to take up.

“For some renewable technologies to work effectively, homes need to meet high insulation standards. However, many rural properties are among the least energy efficient in the whole of Europe, so it would be difficult to bring the majority of these homes up to standard.”

However Greg Barker, minister in the Department of Energy Climate Change, said: “This is the first scheme of its kind in the world.

“Not only will people have warmer homes and cheaper fuel bills, they will reduce their carbon emissions, and will also get cash payments for installing these new technologies.”