May 17, 2020

The Rise of Boiler Scrappage Schemes

5 min
Boiler Money

Heating is an essential householders tend to not feel too guilty about when it comes to being green. Yet heating systems ─ particularly inefficient...

Heating is an essential householders tend to not feel too guilty about when it comes to being green. Yet heating systems ─ particularly inefficient boilers ─ are major polluters, and the least environmentally-friendly boilers can increase household energy bills significantly.

In the UK, providing financial incentives for consumers to replace old products with greener alternatives has become extremely fashionable.

Last May it was the Car Scrappage Scheme ─ something also adopted in Germany and France (and US by a different name) ─ that offered consumers a £2,000 discount on a new car if they replaced a vehicle at least 10 years old. About 300,000 vehicles were sold through the scheme between May and December, says the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

This ‘scrappage’ idea was picked up by the heating industry last summer when Mick Williams, the boss of a south of England plumbers’ merchant, started a campaign for a similar scheme for boilers. Consultancy firm Deloitte says inefficient boilers account for up to 60 percent of domestic heating’s carbon emissions in the UK.

Within months, Chancellor Alistair Darling had announced a £50m Boiler Scrappage Scheme for England only. Since January any household with a G-rated boiler – the most polluting – has been able to claim a £400 voucher to help with the costs of upgrading. The scheme is being overseen by the Energy Saving Trust and should mean that 125,000 homes will get a greener boiler. The politicians claim that replacing these old boilers is the equivalent of taking 45,000 cars off the road in terms of CO2 savings.

There are concerns, however, that many householders can’t tell if they have an inefficient Band G boiler and won’t be bothered to ask an installer to assess it. There have also been teething troubles since January with the Energy Saving Trust reporting a backlog of applications that has forced it to increase the size of its call-centre.

Nevertheless, the publicity surrounding inefficient boilers has been welcomed by the wider heating industry. It hopes more householders will at least consider upgrading to a more energy-efficient boiler even if they are not eligible for a £400 voucher. Installing a greener boiler can save up to £200 a year on energy bills.

Wider awareness

Welsh Environment Minister Jane Davidson recently announced more than £4m could soon be spent on a Welsh version while in Scotland the campaign for a boiler scrappage scheme is being led by Labour MSP Sarah Boyack.

Across the pond, The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy agrees that heating is the largest energy expense in most homes, accounting for between 35 and 50 percent of annual energy bills.

There are no plans for a US Boiler Scrappage Scheme yet, but The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 did extend many tax incentives originally introduced in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Consumers who purchase and install specific products, such as an energy-efficient boiler, receive a tax credit for 30 percent of the cost, up to a limit of $1,500 per home.

The tax credits are only available if consumers upgrade to a boiler that meets an Annual Fuel Use Efficiency (AFUE) rating – a measure of overall performance – of 90 percent or higher. Boilers manufactured since 1992 must have an AFUE of at least 80 per cent but many older boilers have AFUE ratings as low as 55 percent.

In the long term, tax credits might prove to be a more effective way rather than scrappage schemes to encourage Western consumers to invest in greener boilers.

The challenges

The pressure group Friends of the Earth has called the English scheme “pathetically small.” Indeed, according to figures gathered by the Heating and Hot Water Industry Council there are actually 4.5m Band G boilers in use across the UK rated at less than 70 percent efficiency. 

The tax credit system in North America is linked into the Energy Star program run jointly by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy.

This initiative awards an Energy Star rating to boilers with an AFUE rating of 85 percent or higher. These products tend to include electric ignition so a pilot light does not need to burn all the time, while more effective combustion technology means more heat is possible from the same amount of fuel.

However Randy Rawson, President of the American Boiler Manufacturers Association (ABMA), does not want the US government to totally dismiss the idea of a voucher-based scrappage scheme similar to the one in England.

“A decent level of incentive for householders to replace their aging and inefficient boilers would have a tremendous impact on the boiler and related equipment industry in the United States,” says Rawson. “It would vastly increase efficiency and lower overall emissions simply through the replacement of older systems.”

He does not expect a scrappage scheme to happen any time soon, though. “Given the size of our federal budget deficit I am not encouraged to think that our government will provide any ‘cash for clunkers’ incentive program over and above what is already in place.”

Canada shares the Energy Star qualified products list with the US and the list is located on the Natural Resources Canada website ( Residential gas boilers in Canada must have an AFUE rating of at least 80 percent.

There is no boiler scrappage scheme there either, but the Government of Canada’s Economic Action Plan does include the ecoENERGY Retrofit program, which awards grants of up to $5,000 per dwelling to homeowners that make energy-saving home improvements. This includes replacing an old heating system with an Energy Star qualified condensing boiler with a 90 percent AFUE or higher, or a qualified oil boiler that has an 85 percent AFUE or higher.

The Canadian government is selling the idea to the country by claiming that less money spent on heating consumers’ homes will mean more money to spend across the wider economy.

In the UK the car scrappage scheme was extended because of its popularity and it is possible more government money could be found to expand the boiler version. Should it prove successful we can expect green campaigners to call for it to be adopted elsewhere in the world.

Share article

Oct 19, 2020

Itronics successfully tests manganese recovery process

Scott Birch
3 min
Nevada firm aims to become the primary manganese producer in the United States
Nevada firm aims to become the primary manganese producer in the United States...

Itronics - a Nevada-based emerging cleantech materials growth company that manufacturers fertilisers and produces silver - has successfully tested two proprietary processes that recover manganese, with one process recovering manganese, potassium and zinc from paste produced by processing non-rechargeable alkaline batteries. The second recovers manganese via the company’s Rock Kleen Technology.

Manganese, one of the four most important industrial metals and widely used by the steel industry, has been designated by the US Federal Government as a "critical mineral." It is a major component of non-rechargeable alkaline batteries, one of the largest battery categories sold globally.

The use of manganese in EV batteries is increasing as EV battery technology is shifting to use of more nickel and manganese in battery formulations. But according to the US Department of Interior, there is no mine production of manganese in the United States. As such, Itronics is using its Rock Kleen Technology to test metal recoverability from mine tailings obtained from a former silver mine in western Nevada that has a high manganese content. 

In a statement, Itronics says that its Rock Kleen process recovers silver, manganese, zinc, copper, lead and nickel. The company says that it has calculated – based on laboratory test results – that if a Rock Kleen tailings process is put into commercial production, the former mine site would become the only primary manganese producer in the United States.

Itronics adds that it has also tested non-rechargeable alkaline battery paste recovered by a large domestic battery recycling company to determine if it could use one of its hydrometallurgical processes to solubilize the manganese, potassium, and zinc contained in the paste. This testing was successful, and Itronics was able to produce material useable in two of its fertilisers, it says.

"We believe that the chemistry of the two recovery processes would lend itself to electrochemical recovery of the manganese, zinc, and other metals. At this time electrochemical recovery has been tested for zinc and copper,” says Dr John Whitney, Itronics president. 

“Itronics has been reviewing procedures for electrochemical recovery of manganese and plans to move this technology forward when it is appropriate to do so and has acquired electro-winning equipment needed to do that.

"Because of the two described proprietary technologies, Itronics is positioned to become a domestic manganese producer on a large scale to satisfy domestic demand. The actual manganese products have not yet been defined, except for use in the Company's GOLD'n GRO Multi-Nutrient Fertilisers. However, the Company believes that it will be able to produce chemical manganese products as well as electrochemical products," he adds.

Itronics’ research and development plant is located in Reno, about 40 miles west of the Tesla giga-factory. Its planned cleantech materials campus, which will be located approximately 40 miles south of the Tesla factory, would be the location where the manganese products would be produced.

Panasonic is operating one of the world's largest EV battery factories at the Tesla location. However, Tesla and other companies have announced that EV battery technology is shifting to use of nickel-manganese batteries. Itronics is positioned and located to become a Nevada-0based supplier of manganese products for battery manufacturing as its manganese recovery technologies are advanced, the company states.

A long-term objective for Itronics is to become a leading producer of high purity metals, including the U.S. critical metals manganese and tin, using the Company's breakthrough hydrometallurgy, pyrometallurgy, and electrochemical technologies. ‘Additionally, Itronics is strategically positioned with its portfolio of "Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies" to help solve the recently declared emergency need for domestic production of Critical Minerals from materials located at mine sites,’ the statement continues.

The Company's growth forecast centers upon its 10-year business plan designed to integrate its Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies and to grow annual sales from $2 million in 2019, to $113 million in 2025.

Share article