Opinion: All solar installations in the UK should be installed by qualified, competent professionals and be assessed for quality

Following the recent announcement from Octopus regarding the Smart Export Guarantee and using non-MCS registered installers for Solar PV installations, Ian Rippin, CEO of MCS, explains to the installer community and consumers why it is important to continue using an MCS certified installer and the risks and implications of not doing so:

Having seen a flurry of social media comments and increasing confusion and worry relating to the implications of a change to the Octopus terms and conditions for their customers to access the Smart Export Guarantee, I wanted to express my concern on behalf of installers, manufacturers and consumers.

Octopus removing the Government-advised requirement for MCS certification as a prerequisite for accessing their export tariff puts the burden of assessing solar installations against industry standards on to homeowners and business owners.

The industry cannot expect the average customer to have the skillset and knowledge to determine whether their system is safe, efficient, and meets industry standards. Consumers should never be put in a position where there is an expectation placed on them to understand what standards, rules and regulations apply to their solar PV installation.

This is the reason MCS exists. To set the standard, to ensure that installations, and importantly the products used in that installation, are high quality, and to provide consumer protections if something were to go wrong.

All solar installations in the UK should be installed by qualified, competent professionals and be assessed for quality. At a time when the solar industry is showing strong growth it’s of the utmost importance that we can give people confidence in home-grown energy.

The requirement for MCS certified installations ensures robust, defined protections for home and business owners installing solar panels. Removing this requirement opens up the market to uncertified installers, untested products and presents a real risk to consumers. A lack of regulation risks inefficiency, financial loss and even increased danger of fire from low-quality installations.

I’ve reached out to Octopus to better understand their intentions, underlining the importance of quality standards and protections. I await their response.

I’ve also engaged colleagues from across the sector to invite their views and can share the following:

Solar Energy UK CEO, Chris Hewett said: “Ensuring the increasing demand for residential solar and energy storage is delivered by installers who can work at a high standard of quality is essential for consumer protection, as well as the country’s net-zero ambitions. This is why Solar Energy UK recommends that all installers have up to date MCS certification, which is backed by an enforcement function to ensure these standards are maintained. We urge all companies offering residential solar and batteries to require this certification of any installers they contract.”

David Cowburn, COO of NAPIT and Deputy Chair of the Competent Persons Forum said: “There is a risk that clauses dealing with missing certificates are misinterpreted, and that consumers are expected to understand the regulations and standards required. For example, PV installations are notifiable in their own right under the Building Regulations. A consumer may assume that employing a registered electrical contractor and gaining certification for an electrical installation satisfies the regulations, but if that contractor doesn’t have PV work on their scope, they risk breaching the building regulations or will need to pay for a building control inspection.

“Almost all Competent Person Scheme members able to self-certify PV work under the Building Regulations achieve their registration as a result of being MCS certified and meeting the requirements for competence and accountability required by the scheme.”

NICEIC’s Technical Director, Paul Collins said: “NICEIC supports third party certification as this provides assurance and protection for consumers, and sector specific certification for low carbon technologies demonstrates installers have been assessed to industry standards.”

Luke Osborne, Energy & Emerging Technologies Solutions Advisor at the Electrical Contractor’s Association added: “ECA believes that third party certification, such as MCS, provides additional safeguards for the customer. This ensures that both the installer and the products meet the requirements for installation of low-carbon technologies.”

I pledge that MCS will continue to play its part in supporting this sector, driving up quality and creating opportunities for all.