Concerns have been raised by renewables certification body MCS about the decision by Octopus Energy to accept solar installations on their Smart Export Guarantee tariffs without MCS accreditation.
There is a skills shortage in the solar installations sector in the UK currently, with not enough MCS accredited installers to meet demand. Some electricians welcomed the news, though MCS warned that it was a step in the wrong direction.
Ian Rippin, MCS’ chief executive, said: “Having seen a flurry of social media comments and increasing confusion and worry relating to the implications of a change to the Octopus terms and conditions for their customers to access the Smart Export Guarantee, I wanted to express my concern on behalf of installers, manufacturers and consumers.”
“Octopus removing the government-advised requirement for MCS certification as a prerequisite for accessing their export tariff puts the burden of assessing solar installations against industry standards on to homeowners and business owners,” Rippin said, adding that “the industry cannot expect the average customer to have the skillset and knowledge to determine whether their system is safe, efficient, and meets industry standards.”
Rippin said he had reached out to Octopus “to better understand their intentions, underlining the importance of quality standards and protections. I await their response.”
Rippin was joined in his criticism by Solar Energy UK chief executive Chris Hewett, who said: “Ensuring the increasing demand for residential solar and energy storage is delivered by installers who can work at a high standard of quality is essential for consumer protection, as well as the country’s net-zero ambitions. This is why Solar Energy UK recommends that all installers have up to date MCS certification, which is backed by an enforcement function to ensure these standards are maintained. We urge all companies offering residential solar and batteries to require this certification of any installers they contract.”
David Cowburn, chief operating officer of NAPIT and Deputy Chair of the Competent Persons Forum said: “There is a risk that clauses dealing with missing certificates are misinterpreted, and that consumers are expected to understand the regulations and standards required. For example, PV installations are notifiable in their own right under the Building Regulations. A consumer may assume that employing a registered electrical contractor and gaining certification for an electrical installation satisfies the regulations, but if that contractor doesn’t have PV work on their scope, they risk breaching the building regulations or will need to pay for a building control inspection.
Independent technical expert Chris Roberts, who has part of the UK solar and storage industries for many years, also expressed his disappointment.
However, Griff Thomas, managing director at GTEC, was more positive about the news, telling eFIXX it was a “game changer” for the industry.
The move looks certain to speed up the uptake of solar by the domestic consumer market, and may incentivise more people to train as solar installers, though it clearly still comes with potential issues, and the worry that safety could be compromised.