Consumer protection in small-scale renewables - MCS report
I’ve just come across and read this report from MCS that acknowledges the shortcomings of dealing with poor installations and the overall complaints procedure. Credit should go MCS for admitting to the shortcomings and for identifying the issues. They are supposedly working towards addressing this and I hope that the new system will be easier and better.
As you say its encouraging that MCS recognises it has shortcomings.
Through my two year old yet-to-conclude-heat pump journey I have come to question whether MCS actually protects consumers at all. My conclusion is, sadly, no, it doesn't protect consumers, it protects installers.
By enforcing a set of rigid rules (which are clearly not fit for purpose in at least a fair proportion of retrofit scenarios) it creates a regime where installers are fully protected so long as they follow those rules, whatever the outcome for the consumer. Furthermore it stifles innovation. I remember experiencing that on a small scale 12 years ago with solar PV, and what is happening with heat pumps appears to be several orders worse.
At least some in the installation industry are beginning openly to admit this, and becoming frustrated with the unnecessary overhead and inappropriate rules and, as a result, finding creative ways around. However I fear that the majority grant harvesters, employing rookie designers and plumbers and creaming off the subsidy, are probably quite happy with the closed shop more or less bullet proof protection MCS offers.
Many justify the continued existence of MCS on the grounds of consumer protection, I think they should perhaps take a step back and examine whether that is currently justified.
Lets hope that the changes in MCS focus on outcomes for the customer and by doing so free up the better installers to do what the customer wants/needs in a cost effective and, where appropriate, innovative way, thus elevating them above the grant harvesters and hopefully eliminating the latter altogether.
My experience with an MCS registered installer which was a requirment for the RHI payments (now in their 7th and final year) is that the standard sets a low bar and is not fit for purpose.
I've mentioned this before in other threads but they initially supplied too large an ASHP, which had to be swapped when the sytem was inspected. The installation has always performed very badly in low outside air temperatures (close to and below 0 C electricity consumption goes off the scale). In the last 9 months I have spent almost £2k on plumbers to fix different leaks in the pipework around the water tank (thankfuly none in the underfloor pipework). This included an expansion tank that had simply corroded from the inside. These are basic plumbing issues (not especialy heat pump related) which shouldn't be arising in a new (not retro-fit) system that's less than 7 years old.
Any repairs have had to be done by other heating engineers as the installer dropped out of the MCS scheme not long after mine was completed and they had no interest in our system. It always take other engineers some time to figure out what all the pipework is anyway - there doesn't seem to be a standard approach to these installations.
The mind boggles at what the results will be if the major roll-out the government wants for heat pumps actually happens. There are nowhere near enough genuinely competent installers and its difficult for the average consumer to judge whether theirs is one of them until after the work has been done.
Grant Aerona HPID10 10kWh ASHP