The Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) is pleased to announce two key new initiatives designed to help installers get involved with the Scheme, and take advantage of the opportunities offered by the forthcoming domestic Renewable Heat Incentive.

A direct result of industry feedback, following various consultations, these initiatives aim to establish routes to ensure as many competent people as possible can engage in this aspect of the green economy.

Gideon Richards, Chair of the MCS Steering Group and Interim CEO, said he was delighted that MCS is playing an instrumental role in supporting DECC’s Spring Launch of the domestic RHI through the updating of the MCS standards.

"It is also particularly good news that we can announce the clarification of the competency criteria MCS certification bodies will be verifying installer companies against," he said.

Changes to Heat Technology Standards

In order to fully support next spring’s domestic RHI, the Scheme has been doing a lot of work this year to modify the installer standards for the heat technologies (Biomass, Solar Thermal and Heat Pumps).

The MCS Working Groups, composed of installers, manufacturers and trade associations, have updated the standards to ensure that MCS heat technology installations can robustly meet all the requirements that will enable government to make MCS the requirement for customers wishing to access the incentive.

The largest change is focussed on the addition of Compliance Certificates. This is designed to be viewed as a checklist for installation companies to complete and confirm the suitability of the installation to the relevant MIS standard. A summary of the changes to the heat technology standards can be found here

A Clearer Path to Certification

This initiative is aimed at helping installers better understand how to become certified and making it clearer how to up-skill and re-skill in response to changes, such as the introduction of the domestic RHI.

MCS remains a scheme where it is the company that is certified to carry out installations. However, it has always been recognised that a company demonstrates competence mainly through its operatives, whether those operatives have formal training, industry experience or a combination of both. Today we are publishing the competency criteria that the experience and training must combine to meet so that the company can be certified.

This gives a much clearer bridge between the skills and experience of the individuals, and what a company must demonstrate, in order for that company to become MCS certified.

MCS now has a framework of roles against which the criteria are mapped so that individuals can understand how the criteria are likely to apply to their role within their company. Most roles can be combined or shared as required – the framework is designed for every size and type of installer company.

A Competency Checker Tool to support use of these frameworks will soon be available for free on the MCS website . The qualifications checking and ‘Experienced Workers Route’ functions it contains can be used to help identify which roles and criteria the installer believes they already fulfil, and prompt the installer to assemble evidence they can present to their MCS Certification Body for evaluation.

The new Competency Criteria and assessment are being phased in from 16 March 2014, applying initially to new certifications, and with a transition period of up to three surveillance visits for existing installers to work to them. All installation activity under the scheme will at all times have to meet the MCS Standards, giving real confidence to consumers.

The new Competency Criteria, supporting guidance framework, and IT tool will guide installer companies in demonstrating how their staff’s combined industry experience and formal training demonstrates the relevant competence for the company to gain certification. The framework places an equal emphasis on experience and on qualifications, because we know the key is to help installers show Certification Bodies that their company is competent. This is a big step forward in making the whole process more transparent from the installer’s perspective.

Bruce Allen, chief executive officer of HETAS, said: “As Chair of the MCS Working Group for Biomass I can confirm that a huge amount of work has gone on in all working groups to update and improve the MCS standards. I am delighted that the input of manufacturers, installers and industry stakeholders has culminated in such a significant advancement in these critical scheme documents. Gemserv as scheme secretariat has succeeded in a complex coordination exercise which will make the standards more user friendly and supportive in respect of those who use them.”

Tony Bowen, president of the Heat Pump Association, said: “The Microgeneration Certification Scheme has been one of the best kept recent secrets! For more than 7 years the heat pump industry has been working collaboratively to produce strict product and installer standards. Why? To underwrite a good customer experience and ensure that lesser known technologies do not suffer from the 'fear of the unknown'.

"Manufacturers have spent millions on third party testing of their products to the MCS criteria, installers have invested in the expertise of their staff by extensive training. The result - customers using MCS installers can be comfortable that they are being offered quality products according to a laid down procedure which they themselves can see on the MCS website. This is a remarkable step for UK industry, and we look forward to the public coming to understand its real value.”