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Renewable heat incentive: to wait, or go ahead?

Posted by Roger Croft on 10 November 2010 at 9:57 am


Anyone considering a renewable heating technology such as: solar hot water, biomassground or air source heat pumps, may be best placed to wait for a detailed announcement on rates and technologies covered by the Renewable Heat Incentive. However, self builders, broken-down boilers, and renovation projects all have to make timed decisions and can't necessarily afford to wait until Christmas.

MCS Accreditation – what is it?

The government  launched a Microgeneration strategy in 2006 to raise awareness of microgeneration technologies. As part of this there was a perception that both the installers and products varied in quality.

The Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) was designed to independently certify microgeneration products and services in accordance with consistent standards. The MCS places a requirement on products and installers to be certified in order to carry the MCS ‘mark', and installers to sign up to a Code of Practice in line with the Office of Fair Trading's Consumer Code of Approval Scheme.

The MCS underpins DECC's incentives (such as the feed-in tariff and renewable heat incentive). These will be available to applicants using both products and installers certified under MCS or equivalent schemes. Other initiatives, such as the proposed stamp duty land tax relief for new zero carbon homes, are also likely to use MCS in the future.

MCS Accreditation – how will it work with the Renewable Heat Incentive?

If you are going ahead with a project before the details of the renewable heat incentive are confirmed, do consider the following risks:

1. Many MCS accredited products will be eligible, but not all. MCS Accreditation is a stand alone “mark”. Just because a product has achieved MCS accreditation does not guarantee that it will gain funds from the renewable heat incentive. For example, some pellet stoves without water heating are MCS accredited, yet stoves were not included in the RHI consultation, while boilers were.

2. Contract directly with the company that has the MCS mark. The “installation” is every part of the process of installation ie the supply, design, installation, set to work, commissioning and handover of the microgeneration technologies. 

3. MCS accreditation – how do I know if someone is accredited?

Check on the MCS website which lists all accredited products and installers. In addition, accredited company websites and promotional material carry the MCS logo.

4. Can someone commission or sign off an MCS accredited install?

There is some ambiguity in the specifications that some companies have decided they can commission or sign off for other people for a fee, typically £4-500. This is a risk as the commissioning is only one part of the installation process ie the installation will not have been carried out by an MCS installer, just the commissioning. It may be that these installations will not count for the RHI or as MCS accredited installations. By contracting directly with the MCS accredited installer you avoid this difficulty.

What does this mean for consumers?

There have been no grants in the Microgeneration sector since May 2010. There have been no confirming statements by the government to give clarity to consumers, communities and householders to give them 100% confidence that they will be supported. Just expectation.

Of concern to some is the issue of "remoteness" and the degree to which the MCS company is involved in your install. 

In the absence of any view from the renewable heat incentive team at DECC other than “wait and see” all consumers can do is to contract directly with an MCS accredited installer and use an MCS accredited product. If you are in any doubt contact Gemserv to seek clarification.

Photo by Max Stanworth

About the author:

Roger Croft is director of Wessex Installations

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

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