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Poor consumer perception could kill solar thermal

The new Department of Energy and Climate Change has warned that the solar thermal industry is in danger of blackening its name.

Stephen De Souza of the newly formed department told attendees of the recent Carbon Factor conference that poor consumer perception could kill the industry. He made the comments when fielding criticism of the microgeneration certification scheme (MCS).

Neil Schofield, head of sustainable development at Worcester, Bosch Group, complained that MCS formed a barrier to the successful uptake of domestic solar thermal in the UK.

“Worcester, Bosch and many other manufacturers have trained thousands of installers on solar thermal products, yet only 50 solar thermal installers are currently registered under the scheme. This tells us the scheme is not fit for purpose,” he claimed.

Mr De Souza countered by insisting that MCS was necessary to give confidence to consumers, and that the industry risked its existence if it did not satisfy consumers.

“We’re very conscious of the need for the scheme, especially with solar thermal, where the number of complaints from consumers has been high. There really is a danger of the solar thermal industry blackening its name,” he said.

“A certification scheme must be a balance between the interests of the consumer and the supply chain. If you don’t protect customers you won’t have an industry.”

He also claimed MCS was not a barrier to entry and that industry had asked for a certification scheme for renewables when the Government initially consulted on the issue.

“The creation of MCS has been more difficult than expected, mainly due to tensions within different parts of the industry, but having 50 solar thermal installers signed up is not bad because the scheme has not been going very long,” he said.

The Microgeneration Certification Scheme underpins the Low Carbon Buildings Programme which offers government grants for microgeneration installations. Grants are only offered to UK householders and other qualifying applicants who use MCS certified products and installers.

The Building Research Establishment initially ran MCS but the Government has indicated that it will be opened up to other organisations. In August H&V News announced that Hetas would be able to grant accreditation through the scheme. Bruce Allen, chief executive of Hetas said at the time he was confident it would be offering MCS by early 2009.