The chief executive of MCS said he could see some early signs of recovery in the UK’s domestic renewable energy installation market as the government’s coronavirus lockdown restrictions begin to lift, but warned investment in a green economy was needed to increase economic and environmental resilience.
The national certification scheme for renewable technology has worked closely with its stakeholder community over the last few months to monitor the evolving situation with COVID-19. Back in April it reported that 90% of their installers had seen an adverse impact on their business, with cash flow and survival concerns topping the list of worries.
Drop in installation numbers
The scheme witnessed a drop in installation numbers in March which coincided with the UK government imposing lockdown on 23 March. This drop in numbers was consistent across all types of technology including MCS certified heat pump and solar PV installations.
In April, they dropped more dramatically with the average number of commissioned installations under the MCS scheme falling by 77.5% compared with February. However, early indications now do show encouraging signs of recovery following the easing of strict lockdown measures, with the average number of installations for May increasing by 37% compared to the previous month.
Signs of recovery
On 10 May, Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out the ‘road map’ for easing lockdown in the UK, as part of a three-phase plan to return the country back to normal life. This easing was predominantly adopted by England, with tighter restrictions remaining in place across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Ian Rippin, CEO of MCS said; “There is no denying, our industry and our installers have been hit hard by this pandemic. We continue to monitor the installation data closely and currently this positively shows a consistently improving picture.”
Thermal Earth are an MCS certified installer who specialise in heat pump installations. Nick Salini, their director is encouraged by recent activity and said; “We have seen signs of recovery in terms of the level of enquiries across the board both directly in Wales but also from our installation partners across the UK. March and April was a worrying time for all, but since early May the situation seems to be improving across the industry. We hope that these enquiries turn into a solid pipeline of live projects in the coming months.”
Matrix Energy Systems are a Sheffield based MCS certified installer specialising in intelligent renewable energy, heating and cooling solutions in both the domestic and commercial markets. Their managing director Paul Leedham said; “As a business, you never plan for the eventuality of lockdown and what that brings – so it has been a really difficult time for everyone. We are fortunate to have a great team of people working for us, so although we had to furlough our employees, we all really embraced the opportunity and focused on making process improvements. Because of this we’ve definitely become more agile through a difficult period and it means that as a business we are entering this new phase leaner, fitter and with better processes and procedures.”
He added; “We managed to do Zoom video calls with customers during March and April. Our work comes from word of mouth and we are fortunate to have a guaranteed pipeline of jobs. Now that we are back up and running, we’ve already completed several heat pump installations. May has been busier and we are even hiring another member of staff.”
Ian, a Northwest based installer added; “April was a really hard month with virtually no enquiries. During May we’ve done little installation work as we do still have some staff furloughed, but enquiries have improved dramatically with 50% of these already converted into orders. As sites open up, we are going back to complete projects that we started prior to lockdown and going forward, June looks good with additional orders coming in and a pipeline of orders for the next 6 months ahead. I’m feeling positive.”
In recent weeks, there has been mounting pressure on the government to focus on a green recovery, with calls from campaigners and the Prince of Wales to prioritise low-carbon solutions to ease economic fallout of coronavirus.
Ian added; “As we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis and the global economic shutdown, there is no better time to ensure that government policy enables our greener future and the achievement of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. I think we have now hit recovery mode and I believe, a unique opportunity to refocus our efforts and begin to reap benefits in accelerating investment in the low carbon economy.”