Pippa Wibberley explains why the industry as a whole needs to address the existing barriers to renewable technologies and help provide the training and on-going support installers need to be able to specify them with confidence.
The domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is on track to be launched this spring – a key element in a range of policies supporting the Government’s commitments to produce 15% of the UK’s energy from renewable sources by 2020.
The skills and knowledge both the industry and the installer have developed in this market over the last two years should be commended, but there are still many barriers facing installers looking to make the transition from traditional heating technologies.
Lack of consumer understanding
Despite increasing awareness of energy efficiency and the pay-back initiatives available, most homeowners remain apprehensive about switching to renewables. Within the domestic market, there is still a fundamental lack of understanding about the technologies that are available, the installation process and the longer term benefits.
Furthermore, most homeowners are still unsure about how government initiatives – such as Green Deal and the RHI – actually work, and installers need to play a vital role in bridging this gap.
Having a renewable technology installed is a big decision and considerable investment for a homeowner. Installers need to be well equipped to be able to communicate effectively and convince their customers that investing in a better system in the short-term can provide significant savings and improved cash flow in the long-term.
Online savings calculators, such as the one just launched by Glow-worm, can also help provide homeowners with all of the information they need about how much they can save on their fuel bills and CO2 emissions. They can prove a useful tool to installers when trying to sell the benefits of renewables to their customers and helping them to understand how incentive schemes can reward them.
Access to training
First and foremost, installers need to be provided with easy access to training so that they can hone their skills and specify renewables with confidence. A key barrier for installers considering moving into renewable technologies is often the requirement for training and accreditation, which can be a time-consuming and expensive requirement for many small installers.
As a manufacturer, Glow-worm believes that it should be helping to offset this cost by providing robust training packages which incorporate discounted Renewable and MCS accreditation. Through this investment, manufacturers can help to ensure that installers fully understand the renewables market and legislation surrounding it, know how to identify a customer’s exact energy needs, and be confident when installing our renewable products.
Impact on business
Moving into renewables can be a daunting prospect for some installers; a move away from working with the technologies they have worked with for years and into the unknown. This is not surprising because operating within the renewables market may completely change the way that an installer is required to run their business.
The monetary return from renewables can be greater with higher profit margins, but with this opportunity also comes a greater risk. By their very nature, renewable technologies are far more complex than traditional heating systems, take much longer to install, and can therefore have an impact on the rest of the business.
Installers operating within the renewables sector may need to have a greater grasp on the time management of jobs and the overheads required than they have been previously used to. Staff management may also become more hands-on and cash flow more volatile.
However, for the installer who wants to reap the benefits, the opportunity is there for the taking provided they are adequately equipped for the transition. Manufacturers can help with this by providing a comprehensive support service to ensure that installers are not left exposed following initial training.
On-going support and technical back up
For many installers, it is not getting the initial training that poses the barrier, but the lack of on-going support following training completion and accreditation. With the opportunity for an installer to grow their business into renewables, also comes a greater expectation from customers for after-servicing support, which installers need to be fully prepared for.
Renewables projects are each unique with the potential to throw up a whole host of challenges that training alone will not provide enough preparation for. Installers need to feel confident that an expert technical team is on hand to provide planning and on-site support if they should need it.
Additional services such as assisted commissioning, after sales service and providing installers with easy access to good quality spare parts are vital in ensuring they do a good installation job. Once the installer is well informed and comfortable in both the product they are installing and in the renewables market as a whole, they can be confident that they are providing the best possible service to their customers. This will ensure that customer confidence in the industry grows as a whole and continues to develop for the future.