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Prepare now for microgenerators of tomorrow

Renewable energies are big news at the moment, and heating engineers are ideally placed to move into this new area of business.

But it’s not just the market for heating-related renewables that we can take advantage of the microgeneration of electricity is a related area worth consideration.

Take a quick glance at the benefits of the feed-in tariffs (FiTs) for photovoltaics and it should be enough to convince you it’s a good idea to upskill. The technology is relatively simple and straightforward to install, and in many ways is easier than a solar thermal installation. However, you will need qualification for Part P for the connection of the inverter to the consumer unit.

The scheme is available to anyone producing up to 5 mWp per year and is already proving to be a big success with end-users, as it offers tax-free payments over 25 years and an average 5-8 per cent return on investment.

Ofgem forecasts suggest blackouts as early as 2013 as older power stations are decommissioned, and this concern is further contributing to the uptake of solutions that qualify for FiTs.

The government announced in October last year that there will be no changes or cuts to the FiTs schemes until their next review in 2013.

It is expected that the review will see a reduction in rates only for those joining the scheme after that date. Making renewable energy on a domestic level and contributing to the grid is one of the steps the government is urgently taking to address energy issues.

The scheme feeds into a variety of government objectives, such as the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan; Code for Sustainable Homes; plans for zero-carbon new homes by 2016; and the target to cut carbon emissions from existing and new properties by 80 per cent by 2050.

The FiT schemes can only be accessed using both a Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) installer and MCS-certified products, so you will need to invest in the appropriate training and accreditation - plus select a suitable manufacturer. The certification routes for these both fall under the independent MCS.

The process is close to others we are already accustomed to. Registration, demonstration of a quality management system in place, competence and yearly renewals specific to the MCS will qualify an installer for accreditation - in a similar way to how Gas Safe works.

Also, it’s worth bearing in mind that such official certification builds consumer confidence, and this in turn will increase uptake of the new technology.

The MCS website (www.microgenerationcertification.org) lists all the certification bodies that provide accreditation. To get involved, you either have to gain your own certificate and register as an MCS installer company, work full-time for an MCS installer company, or become a subcontractor for an MCS installer company.

Nick Stevenson is new energy director at Ideal Heating