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Prepare for the microgeneration future ahead

The government has committed itself to increasing the level of renewable energy in the UK to 15 per cent by 2020. This is a sharp increase from the 2 per cent recorded in 2009.

To achieve this, early adopters are being financially rewarded through two schemes, namely feed-in tariffs (FITs) and the proposed Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

FITs were launched in April and offer financial rewards for the production of electricity, even if it is used by the consumer. An enhanced payment per kW/H generated is paid (this is dependent upon technology) and the scheme is guaranteed for up to 25 years.

Funding is calculated to give the end-user a return on investment of around 8 per cent. This is well and above anything obtained in any other form of investment. Typical technologies include solar PV, wind, hydro and combined heat and power.

RHI is expected to be launched in April 2011 and rewards the generation of hot water. The exact funding levels have not been announced yet but are expected to offer a return on investment of around 12 per cent (apart from solar thermal, at 6 per cent). Other technologies include heat pumps and biomass.

Getting involved

To access these schemes, a consumer must install products and contract an installer that are both registered under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS).

The scheme describes itself as “an independent scheme that certifies microgeneration products and installers in accordance with consistent standards. It is designed to evaluate microgeneration products and installers against robust criteria, providing greater protection for consumers”.

There are a number of organisations operating a MCS scheme. As a business, we predominantly offer registration through either CORGI or NICEIC. Consideration must be given when selecting the best body to join. Some of them offer an addition of works notification, thus eliminating the need to join more than one scheme.

As with any scheme an individual must demonstrate competence, and the best way to achieve this is via a training/assessment programme. This is where providers such as Piper Assessment come in.

Range of factors

However, unlike traditional competency schemes there are other issues to address. A business will be asked to have a quality system in place; for small companies this can be daunting.

To simplify this task, we have linked up with quality management company QMSA, which runs a low-cost one-day seminar, the cost of which can often be claimed back upon joining an MCS scheme. This course offers support for all sizes of business, and organisations can then either go it alone or use varying levels of support offered by QMSA.

Finally, there is the issue of product. It is important that the correct product is selected, as it can affect consumer funding and quality of the end solution. This is why as a business we have linked up with PTS, a leading supplier in our industry.

Courses are offered in their dedicated renewable centre, where candidates can see first-hand the majority of renewable technologies installed and working.

Add these schemes to the other drivers, such as increases in energy pricing and various planned initiatives to tax those with a higher carbon footprint, and it becomes clear that this is the future for our sector.

Steve Wright is chief executive of Piper Assessment