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Drive for Green ‘Microgeneration’ Limited by a Shortage of Certified Engineers

By David Holmes on March 8, 2010

wind_turbineAccording to the biggest manufacturer of central heating equipment in the UK, Worcester Bosch, the move towards so-called microgeneration is likely to trip over red tape currently restricting the availability of new certified installers of renewable energy equipment.

Microgeneration refers to a governmental scheme designed to encourage millions of UK households to produce their own electricity through various green methods. Such methods include the use of solar panels, heat pumps and wind turbines, which can all produce clean renewable energy in the domestic context. Recent measures introduced by the UK Government aim to fix the feed-in tariff available for households producing green electricity and selling it back to the National Grid.

Specifically, from next month onwards, a fixed rate of up to 41p a kilowatt hour will be available for households that have installed roof-mounted solar panels, whilst up to 34.5p a kilowatt hour will be available for households that have installed wind turbines or windmills. These tariffs will be made available to Britain’s 26 million or so households; however, early adopters of domestic renewable energy equipment will miss out on the new rates, which has resulted in widespread criticism of the Government. Nevertheless, the new tariffs are designed to encourage more people to install renewable energy equipment at home, so rewarding early adopters of the technology is not a key concern for the Government.

Other than the early adopter argument, there would seem to be very little reason why the new feed-in tariffs will not prove a major success; however, according to Worcester Bosch, the scheme may face a more practical set-back unless the route to becoming a certified renewable energy equipment installer changes. In the UK, under the Gas Safe scheme, there are approximately 120,000 registered gas engineers, whereas there are only 500 or so certified installers of renewable energy equipment. As the Head of Sustainable Development for Worcester Bosch, Neil Schofield, pointed out training to qualify under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) is “expensive, onerous and full of red tape”. Although the MCS is useful in weeding out cowboy engineers, it would also appear to represent a major disincentive for gas engineers wanting to work in the microgeneration industry.