Special Report

MCS announces plans for scheme improvements

MCS has reported on the long-awaited outcome of its industry-wide consultation, revealing a number of changes to the certification scheme.

Future plans unveiled as MCS publishes consultation outcomes

It marks the end of an almost two-year review which set out to address some of the challenges facing installers and the impact of the existing MCS structure.

The consultation sought feedback on a series of proposed changes which had been put forward with input from stakeholders across the industry and were designed to ‘give people confidence in low-carbon technology by defining, maintaining and improving quality’.

In recognition of the growing demand for small-scale renewables, MCS wanted to revise the scheme to enhance consumer protections, while ensuring that certification is not a barrier to industry entry.

‘Majority of proposals endorsed’

Among the changes which have been agreed audits and assessments will be more focused on site rather than paperwork, a new compliance risk model will be introduced, and every installation will require sign off by a new ‘technical supervisor’ role.

Current sub-licensing agreements will be replaced with a new MCS contractor agreement, complaints and dispute management will be centralised and mandatory membership of the Consumer Code will be scrapped.

Unveiling the feedback this week, MCS CEO, Ian Rippin, said: “I have been inspired by those in the industry who want MCS to succeed to underpin the reputation of our sector and the contribution it makes to our decarbonisation goals.

“I’m pleased to see that the majority of our proposals were endorsed. We’ll start to move forward with these now. Some, however, just didn’t address the recognised barriers in the right way, so there are some that we won’t take forward, or we’ll find another solution.”

New scheme to be implemented in 2024

MCS said it wanted to deliver ‘a reformed MCS that contractors can be proud to belong to and offer to their consumers as their mark of quality’ and that ‘allows high quality installers to flourish, unencumbered by excessive bureaucracy, whilst holding those that fall short of the quality standards and scheme requirements to account’.

It intends to publish new documents before the end of this year, followed by a period of transition, with the new scheme to be launched in the spring or early summer of 2024.

A total of 106 responses were submitted via the consultation form, in addition to 1,493 individual votes and comments in response to a series of social media polls. More than half of those (53%) were from the contractor/installation company sector, 14% consumer/independent, 11% trade, and the rest from consumer organisations, certification bodies, manufacturers and other.

So far, we’ve heard from the Heat Pump Association (HPA), which has welcomed the changes, and it will be interesting to hear wider feedback from the installer community.

HPA CEO, Charlotte Lee, said: “We welcome and support MCS’s proactive approach to redeveloping the installer certification scheme, making it work better for the industry. The changes set out are a significant step towards enhancing support for compliant, safe and optimised heat pump installations and to strengthen trust and confidence from consumers.

“This is vital as we continue to grow heat pump deployment in line with decarbonisation targets.”

While the consultation response can be read in full on the MCS website, we’ve included a summary below.

New scheme structure – supported

Assurance requirements and documentation will be clearer and easier to understand with refined MCS installation standards to contain only technical information.

Membership of a Consumer Code will no longer be mandated.

Certificates for replacement, extended and adopted systems – partially supported

MCS will allow replacement and adopted systems to be certified, but it was decided not to allow the certification of extended systems, as was originally proposed.

Risk-based compliance assessments – supported

To address concerns that current processes are too paperwork-heavy, compliance assessments will be reset to focus on the delivered quality of an installation on site. There will also be clearer definitions of risk, as part of a new risk model.

Technical responsibility for each installation – supported

Plans will be progressed to require installation sign-off by a newly-defined ‘technical supervisor’ role. This is to address perceived weaknesses of having one nominated technical person who might not be appropriately qualified, or maybe never goes out on sites.

Pending (conditional) certification – not supported

It was proposed that contractors could pay a £5,000 bond for a ‘pending certification’ status which would be returned once certification had been achieved, but it was ultimately decided that this might act as a further barrier to consumers.

MCS will instead continue to explore options for improving accessibility to the scheme, including piloting assessments in a simulated environment.

MCS contractor agreement – supported

This will replace the current sub-licensing agreement and aims to improve the relationship, while allowing MCS to hold contractors to account more easily for any failing in standards.

Centralised complaint management – supported

A new centralised system will allow the MCS to be more directly involved in supporting consumers when something goes wrong, and helping contractors tackle vexatious complaints. It plans to contact every consumer who has purchased a certified system for feedback on their experience.

Implementation of new financial protections – partially supported

A new MCS guarantee will be developed as a fund of last resort to resolve installation problems. The requirement of insurance-backed guarantees will not be mandated.

Retirement of existing documents – supported

Finally, as a result of the changes, MCS 001-1, MCS 001-2, MCS 025, and MGD 001 will all be retired when the new scheme launches.

We’d love to hear your views on the confirmed changes. Do they achieve both objectives of improved consumer protection and removal of barriers to entry? Tell us what you think by emailing news@renewableenergyinstaller.co.uk.