New installer scheme to ‘drive standards and offer more market choice’ 

A new certification scheme has been launched in the UK which aims to help drive standards in the industry, increase the number of certified installers and offer more choice to the market. 

Group photo of David Lindsay- MD Certi-fi Schemes (Flexi-Orb), Alex Gates- MD Simply Certification (and Simply Learning), Mark Nelson- Certification Director, Certi-fi Schemes pictured at their Installer Show stand.

After running a beta service for the past three years, Flexi-Orb (Flexible Energy Oversight Registration Body) has now gone live with a brand new renewables installation scheme recognised by UKAS to ISO/IEC 17067:2013.  

As well as being the first scheme accredited to this level, it’s also the first to offer certification for electric vehicle charging points, in addition to solar PV and electrical energy storage systems. There are plans to add heat pumps next year. 

The new scheme was officially launched during this year’s InstallerSHOW, where we were able to grab a quick chat with Flexi-Orb creator, David Lindsay, and Alexandra Gates, managing director of Simply Certification – the first UKAS-accredited certification body to offer the scheme to installers. 

“There needs to be choice for everyone,” David said. “Choice drives up standards, affects relationships and pricing, and ultimately benefits the end-user.” 

David has 14 years of experience in this industry, including seven spent working as operations and compliance director for a national renewable energy installer, before joining Certi-fi in 2017. 

Since then, he’s developed the Energy Performance Validation Scheme, which aims to protect consumers from incorrect performance estimates and system design errors, and has now launched the new Flexi-Orb scheme. 

What’s different about Flexi-Orb

David makes no secret of the fact that Flexi-Orb is more challenging and more expensive. On a technical level, the assessment will be separated into a review of office systems and processes, and a technical site inspection. The office element will generally be undertaken by a management system specialist, while specialist technical assessors will concentrate on the site visit. An assessment is likely to take a full day. 

“We want to be seen as a premium scheme provider,” David said. “This means the initial assessment will be more challenging than installers are used to. This also presents an opportunity for installers. Some might feel the office assessment isn’t needed, but some businesses fail on systems. This is a great way of improving that. 

“However, there’s also a shortage of technical assessors. By increasing application fees, we will be able to attract more quality assessment engineers into the industry and ease a bottleneck that will only get worse as the country’s renewables ambition grows.” 

Once certified, registration fees are not as expensive, although David doesn’t believe price will ultimately be a motivating factor. 

“From the initial heavy influx of applications our certifications bodies have had, I don’t see price as being a motivator – they are installers who welcome the tougher upfront assessments because they want to evidence competency to their customers,” he added. 

Flexi-Orb also mandates membership of a consumer code, whereas this is something that will no longer form part of the revised MCS scheme which is launching next year. 

David said: “We feel the consumer code membership is worth maintaining. It can intervene and bring about successful resolution where needed. And if they can’t, we will step in. We want to bring that confidence to the market.” 

MCS is, however, developing a financial protection standard for the market to deliver a ‘fairer deal’ for consumers. It says the current model of insurance backed guarantees taken out by those who invest in low carbon technologies falls short of what consumers expect a guarantee to cover. MCS has also created an independent consumer protection panel made up of industry leaders from across the consumer protection and energy industries to provide regular feedback on how well it is delivering for consumers. 

You can read more about the planned MCS changes in a special article in the next edition of Renewable Energy Installer magazine, due out soon. You can subscribe here

The next steps for Flexi-Orb 

“Overall, our aim is to drive standards up. We’re not looking to dominate straight away,” David said. “We want to attract companies who are committed to safe installations. We’re providing a quality product that can grow with the requirements of the industry. We want to respond to industry needs by changing and developing.  

“I’m surprised at the level of interest we have had already. The fact there’s now a competitor scheme is creating publicity in itself. 

“As the country moves towards net zero, the demand for the safe installation of renewable systems will intensify. We expect our entry into the market to increase the capacity to support quality assessment and ongoing surveillance, improving consumer confidence.” 

Also on the agenda for Flexi-Orb is to gain recognition as an ‘equivalent’ alternative scheme with government departments to ensure various funding initiatives can still be accessed by Flexi-Orb certified installers. 

First to offer an EV charging point scheme 

Alexandra Gates, managing director of Simply Certification, said: “It’s fantastic to be at the forefront of this new scheme and to be the first certification body to certify installers to it. The introduction of Flexi-Orb will allow existing installers to offer more options to the end user and allow new entrants to the market the option of choosing which scheme best suits their needs. 

“We are also the first to offer an EVCP scheme in the UK, which is really exciting.   

“Flexi-Orb takes more of an holistic approach and I think it’s a good scheme for installers who really want their businesses to grow. 

“We anticipate lots of interest and are working behind the scenes to ensure that all customers enjoy the quality of service that they have come to expect from Simply Certification. Having a diverse portfolio of offerings is key to ensuring that the UK energy efficiency market is prepared for net zero. It’s a transformative time for the industry.” 

Blue Flame Certification has also been accredited to offer Flexi-Orb and more certification bodies are expected to partner before the end of the year. 

Picture shows left to right: David Lindsay- MD Certi-fi Schemes (Flexi-Orb), Alex Gates- MD Simply Certification (and Simply Learning), Mark Nelson- Certification Director, Certi-fi Schemes.  

Image credit: Phrase Creative on behalf of Certi-fi Schemes and Flexi-Orb