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Renewables boss slams 'biased' MCS procedure

The managing director of a firm which supplies and installs renewable energy systems has denounced the Microgeneration Certification Scheme’s (MCS) complaints procedure as biased.

 

The MCS, administered by BRE Global, is the assessment scheme to which installers and manufacturers must be certified by if they their customers wish to access grants under the Low Carbon Buildings Programme (LCBP).

 

The firm, which requested to remain anonymous, had transferred from the Clear Skies accreditation programme and was in the process of being assessed to join the MCS when a customer threatened to withhold part payment on a completed heat pump installation.

 

As part of its customer complaints procedure, BRE Global inspected the installation. However, our source said far from being objective and impartial, the process was farcical and could be potentially costly.

 

“We found the complaints procedure to be a one-sided affair,” the source said. “We recently received a complaint against us by one of our customers. BRE sent an independent expert down to assess the job but this independent expert turned out to be one of our local competitors.

 

“When we informed BRE of his status they accepted there might be an issue but left it at that. Nothing was done to address our concern. Had I successfully completed the assessment process and become an accredited installer, I would have found myself paying for that ‘independent” expert write a report about me, and I would also be [liable] for their expenses.

 

“Throughout this whole process BRE has not given me a chance to [have my say]. It is judge, jury and hangman. If I want to raise an issue with BRE or I want to challenge a decision that they’ve made, I have to pay £1,000 first.

 

'We are receiving very positive feedback'

Chris Roberts, BRE associate director, said: “Without further information on this client we are unable to comment in detail on this specific complaint. However, all our BRE assessors are trained to undertake assessments and are supported by other technical colleagues.

 

“We do take complaints from consumers against installers very seriously, both in terms of protecting the consumer but also [in terms of] the potential impact this might have on the installer.

'For those reasons, any technical investigation required due to a consumer complaint would be assigned to the most qualified assessor we have in that particular field, and any resulting report put through an internal quality procedure which includes sign-off by a BRE director.

 

“This process is designed to ensure impartiality and objectivity. The installer in question would always be given the opportunity to respond to the report.

 

“There is no cost to an installer if they wish to complain to BRE about their treatment under the scheme.  However, we reserve the right to charge an MCS certificated installer for any time necessary to investigate complaints against them made by their customers where the installer is found to be at fault (i.e. the installation does not meet the scheme technical standards).

 

Regarding the application process, Mr Roberts said: “The additional paperwork and assessment process is necessary to maintain a more robust certification scheme. BRE Global is working to promote high standards of product manufacture and installation to encourage consumer confidence and growth [in] the industry.

'We are also receiving very positive feedback from those that have undertaken the application process. Although it is longer and more involved, the benefits of taking an in-depth look at the business is being recognised.'

He also said the assessment process was complicated, bureaucratic and expensive. “BRE has introduced another regulation whereby we have to oversee the bore holing and the trench digging for geothermal heat pumps.

 

“We’re now saying to our customers that if they want to receive the £1,200 LCBP grant we’re going to have to add another £2,000-£3000 on the price of the heat pump package because of all the extra work that we have to do.

 

“We’ve come to the decision now that we are not going to apply for accreditation because we just can’t cope with the administration and paperwork involved. I believe there are many other installers with similar experiences who are coming to the same conclusion.”

 

No renewable association would comment directly on the fiasco, but David Matthews, chief executive of the Ground Source Heat Pumps Association (GSHPA), said: The expense and complexity of Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) is excessive and is suppressing demand. It’s more costly to comply with this scheme than to comply with the established heating certification schemes, and this really is obstructing the development of the microgeneration market, in favour of traditional high carbon technologies.

 

“The GSHPA will continue to work hard at persuading the government to improve the application of the MCS scheme and develop more suitable certification methods for its members. The GSHPA is also in detailed discussion with the scheme providers and is working to resolve detailed certification issues that are relevant to ground source heat pumps.


Andrew Cooper, head of on-site renewables at the REA said: “We have an issue over the LCBP and we also have issues over the support that Government gives to business. Having a rigorous certification scheme in place just adds to an installers costs. The Government must address the drivers to encourage a mass microgeneration market and then those costs can be more easily absorbed by the sector.