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MCS explained, plus quick guide for wannabe installers

Posted by John Martin on 14 May 2010 at 9:58 am

The Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) appears to be suffering in a similar way as the Gas accreditation scheme did  when it was introduced. It is shrouded in mystery, with rumour-mongers spreading the word that 'none shall pass' and that 'its only for large companies'.

This situation has been further exacerbated by the total lack of information and guidance available from the scheme operators (Gemserv).

In essence the MCS installer approval process consists of a physical inspection of an installer's office management systems and an assessment of an installation they have completed under each category applied for.

The office inspection is largely based on the requirements of the document MCS001. This and other technology-specific MIS documents can be found on the the MCS website.

The MCS001 document contains 19 clauses with requirements such as complaints procedures, quality control, periodic review of systems and so on. The main point is that installers must have a documented management system in place.

This is what appears both off-putting and problematic for installers, who generally speaking are more at home installing the equipment than writing quality management systems. The mere mention of such systems sends them heading for the hills, which is not what is required if we are to significantly increase the number of MCS approved businesses.

I believe that most installers can write a quality system that meets the requirements of MCS001 once they understand what it is the 19 clauses are looking for. Whether or not they have the time or inclination to do so is a different matter.

Installer's quick guide to MCS

Do not fear MCS. Its aim of providing a competent installer base in which the consumer has confidence is laudable and we should all support the initiative.

You will need to register with the REAL consumer code which is approved by the Office of Fair Trading. The code details how renewable energy installers should deal with the customer - particularly how you present information to them to ensure they can make informed decisions based on honest and fair projections of performance.

In a nutshell you will need to be able to provide or demonstrate the following to become MCS accredited:-  

  • That you are registered with REAL and  abide by the code
  • That you have a documented management system in place which meets the clauses of MCS001 and applicable MIS documents, and
  • That your installation(s) meet(s) the requirements of the applicable MIS document.

If you write your own quality management systems, keep it simple and look at what you currently do. Assuming your ethos is to deliver a quality install and have a satisfied customer then you are half way there. You may find that using flowcharts is the easiest way of documenting how you work and these are perfectly acceptable.

Once you have decided on an MCS certification body and submitted an application, you should be able to ask if a particular procedure would be acceptable to them. They are unable to provide advice due to the rules of the UKAS accredited scheme.

Most certification bodies have a 4 – 6 week lead-in period so make sure you take this into account when arranging your approval visit. This lead-in period is likely to increase as applications increase.

So what are you waiting for? Renewables are the future and it's difficult to see longer term how a heating installer can avoid involvement and remain in business.

About the author: John Martin is proprietor of QMSA and managing director of Benchmark Certification.

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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Comments

3 comments - read them below or add one

brianfaux

brianfauxComment left on: 17 August 2010 at 9:17 am

What is missing from the discussion is the actual necessity for the MCS in the first place. Safety concerns for the installation of solar panels, wind turbines and hydro turbines are already covered by building and HSE regs. Electrical safety is assured by IEE regs. Consumers are protected against bad quality by consumer protection laws. Efficiency is easy to gauge: just read the output meter.

So why the extra layer of bureacracy privided by the MCS? Of course it means that members of the public cannot save money (and educate themselves) by installing their own systems. 

Imagine if the law was changed so that all carpets had to be laid by the Fitted Carpet Layers Association and that co-incidentally the comittee which advised the Government to make this change was made up mainly of members of the FCLA.

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John E Martin

John E Martin from QMSAComment left on: 18 May 2010 at 4:53 pm

It’s true, I was at HETAS this week and they said at last count only 67 MCS installers were biomass!! Also the problem of lack of knowledge and understanding of the MCS is a similar story for the Building Regulations CPS schemes, though the issues relating to this are diametrically opposed in that to not be approved under MCS actually makes you less competitive in the market place, whereas to not be registered under CPS arguably makes you more competitive (assuming you are ignoring totally the legal requirement to notify certain work) it just seems that the powers that be, have what are arguably good intentions but role the schemes out with minimal guidance and information and then fail to police them, effectively penalising the conscientious and compliant installers.

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Barry Nutley

Barry Nutley from Viridis Energie ConsultantsComment left on: 17 May 2010 at 2:10 pm

Not only is the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) shrouded in mystery. It also appears that many current installers are unaware of it, and why they need it!! As renewable energy consultants  we are often contacted by installers (indeed we often contact them!) on the look out for work. But when questioned, most don't have MCS, and many of those weren't aware of it's importance!! The area that seems to be lacking the most with MCS accredited installers, is biomass!!

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