Opinion

Supply and demand

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With only 500 MCS registered biomass installers currently on the books, demand could prove lucrative for those in the sector once the domestic RHI is in action, says Robert Burke, HETAS

As I sit down to write this, the impending launch date for the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is still unclear. However, we very much hope that it will be implemented in April and signs from the government indicate that the launch date will indeed be this spring. Finally we will be able to welcome the initiative which could change the face of the renewables industry in England and Wales.

However, as I have said before, we need to be ready to take advantage of the benefits and opportunities that the domestic RHI will offer. The potential for the scheme is enormous, and over 100,000 Green Deal assessments have already been undertaken, which is the pre-requisite for RHI. But to date there are only approximately 500 MCS registered biomass installers. With around 600 MCS approved biomass products now available clearly there could be a shortfall in the number of installers for biomass installations.

There are several scenarios which could ensue. Those companies which are MCS registered could see a dramatic increase in demand for work as soon as the RHI is launched. Or, householders could become frustrated that they cannot get an MCS registered installer and lose faith with the scheme, which could destroy its credibility. Either way, HETAS believes there are still considerable opportunities for those businesses and installers looking to invest in MCS training and registration.

The government has so far incentivised installer training with RHI training vouchers. A Cross Skill voucher is eligible for solar thermal, heat-pump and biomass courses and is valued up to £500 or 75 percent of the total course cost including VAT – whichever is the lesser amount. So if a solar thermal course is priced at £500 + VAT totalling £600, then the voucher would be for £450. For a biomass course priced at £650 + VAT totalling £780, 75 percent of the cost is £585, but the voucher would be for a maximum of £500. Payment is made to the Training Provider upon completion of the course and assessment. Apprenticeship support vouchers are also available up to £2,500 to support those nearing the end of their plumbing/heating apprenticeship to become skilled with one or more renewable technologies.

With over 90 percent of funding on the non domestic RHI already allocated to biomass, we expect a similar surge in demand for the domestic sector. The HETAS biomass training and assessment programme meets the requirements of MCS and the domestic RHI, and we’ve recently streamlined the MCS application process for installers. The network of HETAS approved training centres has expanded to meet demand, and HETAS also offers a combined competent persons and MCS registration package which is financially very attractive for installers.

Our initial view is that householders will find the application process very straightforward, and the RHI has the potential for very good take up rates. However, it’s all dependent on whether there are enough qualified installers, otherwise there is a danger that demand will outstrip supply. For further information on the RHI training voucher scheme visit www.rhitraining.co.uk, with information on MCS and biomass training available on the HETAS website at www.hetas.co.uk.