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Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Microgeneration Certification Scheme – Does It Matter?

It certainly will do if you are in the market for solar panels, a biomass boiler or similar installation. Don’t be afraid of another case of perverse regulatory output designed to suffocate anyone foolish enough to come too close. This really is able to help in an increasingly complex world of private energy production. It also plays a mandatory part in receiving the feed-in-tariff. Yes we are back with the Feed-in-Tariff scheme (FiTs) that we had a closer look at in connection with the British government’s review of payment levels (From Shining Star to Solar Eclipse?). More about that in a moment when I explain what is behind the certification and how it can benefit you or those you represent.

How small is ‘small’?

The Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) is important for anyone who wants to produce his own energy on a moderate, self-sufficient scale. The question is, then: ‘What constitutes ‘small’? You might be surprised to learn that there is not just a directive but a clear outline as part of a law.

 

Definition of Microgeneration

 

As an example, an average solar panel array on a private building produces between 2 and 4 kWs of electricity. Therefore the programme covers a wide range of systems and energy requirements within its limits.

 

What can it do for you?

The MCS serves three purposes, two of which benefit consumers and the third one manufacturers and installers. It was set up primarily to ensure reliable and consistent quality for the benefit of buyers when they chose a renewable energy system or in the body’s own words ‘To tackle mis-selling, quality, safety and performance issues…’. Certification means that I can trust in both product and installer meeting certain conditions. This makes it easier to complain, as well. Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely no wish to boost the litigious tendencies in our society. However, if something goes wrong the customer does have a place to go to and a set of criteria against which the product or service can be judged.

In addition to the MCS installers can join the REAL Assurance Scheme. This was created by the Renewable Energy Association in a similar vein ‘… to guarantee a high quality experience for consumers…’ At its core is a consumer code which members sign up to. Some of the guidelines are:

 

REAL Assurance_Code_excerpt

However, all these things work in both ways. They are a safety net for the customer but also an obligation. Your very own power station can make you money so long as it is clean and green. That is where the feed-in-tariff comes in. It determines the rates at which you will be remunerated for producing energy, which will become even more if you can sell surplus power to the grid. At present the FiTs is under review by the government (see From Shining Star to Solar Eclipse?). In Phase 1 it concerns solar panels only but Phase 2 does include other technologies.

Of course, it isn’t enough to go to a utility company - as it is them who will pay you, not the government - and demand money. Instead of a sawn-off shotgun it is an application form you need to wield. The owner of the installation has to make a claim for the feed-in payments and that is only possible

  • in cooperation with an authorised installer

There are seven mandatory suppliers, which the government obliged to join the scheme and pay tariffs. I have adapted the list below from the Ofgem website, where you can find the contact details of the voluntary licensees as well.

 

British Gas

Telephone: 0800 316 1477

Email: feedintariff@britishgas.co.uk

Website: www.britishgas.co.uk

 

EDF Energy

Telephone: 0800 404 9087

Email: feedintariffs@edfenergy.com

Website: www.edfenergy.com

 

E.ON

Telephone: 0845 301 4884

Email: FeedInTariffEnquiries@eonenergy.com

Website: www.eonenergy.com

 

Npower

Telephone: 0845 078 2977

Email: microgeneration@npower.com

Website: www.npower.com

 

Scottish and Southern Energy

Telephone: 08450 767 634

Email: microgeneration@scottish-southern.co.uk

Websites: www.hydro.co.uk

www.swalec.co.uk

www.southern-electric.co.uk

www.atlanticeg.co.uk

 

Scottish Power

Telephone: 0845 270 1414

Email: Microgen@scottishpower.com

Website: www.scottishpower.com

 

Utility Warehouse

Telephone: 0844 815 7777

Email: feedintariffs@utilitywarehouse.co.uk

Website: www.utilitywarehouse.co.uk 

 

I mentioned before that the MCS is useful to manufacturers and installers, too. For them it is an opportunity to set themselves apart from other businesses in the industry and use it as a platform for the verifiable quality of their products and services. There will be black sheep whether they are on the register or not. It wouldn’t be planet Earth without them. However, the MCS and REAL Assurance Scheme as safeguards against malpractice are as good as one could hope for at this stage.

 

Hail the Hand of Reason

This is a rare example of a regulator having produced a programme within which consumer protection, practical consumer help and business support are not mutually exclusive or its intended purpose killed by an impenetrable web of rules and provisos. Industry input was instrumental and listened to.

 

 

Business people_happy (535 pixels)

New technologies are becoming available, incentives will not remain as they are and the environment for renewable energy is changing in an economic as well as political sense. In future articles I will take the pulse of those involved - consumers, politicians, innovators and businesses - to learn about their views and experiences. Does it work for them? Is it all too complicated? What is stifling and what is helping?

 

Until then I wish you all good health and leave you with these words by Oscar Wilde: "An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all."


See you next week

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