Ian Rippin, Chief Executive at MCS, looks at the issues already arising in the mission to achieve net-zero carbon in the UK, and what the organisation is doing to help.

At present, heating and powering buildings currently accounts for 40% of the UK’s total energy usage. Because of this, the UK has made a shift to low carbon heating a core strategy of its ambitious target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050.

Interest in domestic renewables is peaking, driven recently by consumer incentives, such as the Green Homes Grant, and the government’s commitment to a 10-point plan for a ‘green industrial revolution’.

Other measures include a new Future Buildings Standard, which is currently out for consultation, and in part intends to help set the agenda for improving energy efficiency in our housing.

At MCS, we work to ensure that the quality of work when installing domestic renewables is as high as it can be. This is to protect industry reputation, build consumer confidence, and measure the success of work by its quality. 

MCS certification is a key element of the Green Homes Grant; domestic renewables cannot be installed under the scheme without it. Increasing consumer trust will be vital if we are to implement microgeneration renewable energy technology on the scale needed to meet net-zero by 2050.

Achieving this will depend on the success of the current incentives and new regulations. Unfortunately, this is where the government is falling short. In particular, numerous issues blight the Green Homes Grant, most notably the delay in installers being paid. This must be addressed. 

Changes to be made

With the launch of the Green Homes Grant, there has been an increase in enquiries to MCS for domestic renewable technology; however, there aren’t enough certified installers to meet demand, due to many businesses picking up projects booked in before COVID-related lockdowns.

Our installers are playing a vital role in bringing domestic renewables to the fore, but they must be incentivised to do so.

We are aware of issues with payments and are working with the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy to resolve them as quickly as possible. A more transparent, streamlined payment process should be at the heart of the Green Homes Grant, and any subsequent consumer incentives that are introduced.

A greener future

The government’s 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution calls for 600,000 heat pumps to be installed a year by 2028, something that will require an estimated 20,000-30,000 certified and trained installers. 

Clear and direct action needs to be taken to increase the number of certified installers. We are helping the industry to rise to this challenge by partnering with building services training provider GTEC on the Renewable Heat Installer Training & Support Scheme. 

It will help existing tradespeople access discounted training for the installations of heat pumps and other renewable technology to meet current and future demands.

There are also other barriers to the realising a green industrial revolution and encouraging wide-range adoption of domestic renewables. Since the UK left the EU, the government has been able to set its own VAT rules for any purchasing or retrofitting of renewable technology. 

We are calling for the government to exempt low carbon domestic renewables, including heat pumps, from VAT for the next 10 years.  

As well as changes to current policies, future consumer incentives, such as the Clean Heat Grant, present strong opportunities for government to better collaborate with industry to set the benchmark for incentivising homeowners and installers. We must learn from where the Green Homes Grant has missed the mark.

Our vision

In the coming years, there will be a necessary and quick expansion of the domestic renewables sector. We aim to fully engage and protect consumers and installers alike. This includes making sure supply meets demand and that future schemes operate as efficiently as the technology they promote.

It will be crucial in reducing the carbon footprint of the UK and lessening our contribution to global warming. To achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, the industry is ready and waiting to support the government and showcase best practice for rolling out domestic renewables seamlessly