MCS Certification for Solar: Is it Worth it?
MCS certification is an internationally recognised quality and safety scheme for small-scale renewable energy technologies, including solar PV and solar thermal panels. Here we explain what the scheme is all about and why both homeowners and installers need to stick with it now the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) scheme has closed.
What is the Microgeneration Certification Scheme?
The Microgeneration Certification Scheme, or MCS, is a quality assurance scheme for microgeneration technologies. The MCS is internationally recognised as a mark of quality; technology which is MCS accredited has been installed to a high standard and will operate both safely and efficiently. The MCS is certified by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
What Are Microgeneration Technologies?
Microgeneration technologies are small scale systems which generate their own heat and/or electricity for a home or business premises. Microgeneration systems such as solar panels, heat pumps and biomass boilers can either be used alongside traditional grid supplied energy or as an alternative.
Microgeneration technology has been popular in off-grid homes or homes which have an unreliable connection to the grid, but more and more people are turning to them because of growing environmental concerns. Grid energy which is generated by burning fossil fuels such as gas, oil or coal is contributing greenhouse gases to the world’s atmosphere and damaging our planet’s climate. In an effort to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels for heat and energy, countries all over the world are now opting for renewable energy technologies including small-scale wind turbines, biomass boilers, solar panel systems and heat pumps.
Why is MCS Certification Important?
If you’re investing in solar panels or another microgeneration technology which feeds back to the national grid, you should always ensure that both the technology and the company carrying out the installation are MCS accredited.
Mark of Product Quality
MCS accredited technology has been tested to ensure it meets the necessary quality and safety standards.
Proof of Competence
If the installation company is MCS accredited you can be confident that they are competent to install the technology safely and so it achieves the highest levels of energy efficiency and performance.
The MCS scheme also offers consumer protection where misleading information has been provided regarding the scheme or the renewable technology installed, where the heating system is underperforming, or where the information in the contract and the actual service provided do not match up.If you have a complaint regarding an MCS installer or product, MCS is committed to resolving it fairly and impartially.
Access to Financial Incentive Schemes
In order for a renewable heat or energy generation technology to be eligible for one of the government’s financial incentive schemes, both the technology and installer need to be MCS accredited. If you install one of the eligible technologies which feeds energy back to the national grid you can earn money for the energy you send, but only if you have MCS certificate number.
Financial Incentive Schemes Requiring MCS
The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme rewards owners of technology which generates heat for their property through renewable energy. This includes biomass boilers, ground source heat pumps, air-to-water heat pumps and solar thermal panels (solar water heating). The payments are based on a tariff which is adjusted regularly, and payments are made every quarter for 7 years after the technology has been installed.
One of the government’s financial incentive schemes, the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) scheme, closed to new applications in March 2019. This scheme rewarded owners of solar PV panels for both the electricity they generated and the electricity exported to the grid. Although this scheme is now closed, those looking to install solar PV panels should still be ensuring the panels and installers are MCS accredited. This is because the scheme is likely to be replaced by a similar financial incentive called the Smart Export Guarantee. While this is yet to be officially confirmed, only solar PV which is MCS accredited will be eligible for the scheme.
So, in addition to the consumer protection and peace of mind that the MCS scheme provides, it could also enable you to earn money through your solar panels.
Why Solar Installers Should Stay MCS Certified
Before the FiT scheme closed, it was very unlikely that a homeowner would use a solar company without MCS accreditation as they would not be entitled to receive the FiT payments. But now, with the FiT scheme no longer around as a financial incentive, is it worth the cost of renewing MCS accreditation for solar installers? The short answer is yes, and here’s why:
Ensure You’re Working Safely and to a High Standard
MCS accreditation needs to be renewed each year to ensure your skills and knowledge are as sharp as they can be and you can provide the very best service for your customers.
Peace of Mind for Customers
Having the MCS accreditation ensures that you’re not only competent enough to carry out solar installations, but also makes it more likely that customers will employ you as they have the peace of mind which comes with the MCS consumer protection.
Continued Financial Incentives for Customers
While the FiT scheme has closed, it is likely that it will be replaced by the Smart Export Guarantee which will also require MCS accreditation in its eligibility criteria. If your company is not accredited, you can’t offer your customers the same financial benefits as your competitors.
Note: If you’re employed by a company which has MCS accreditation, you do not need to get the accreditation yourself. However, if you want to be self-employed your company will need to be MCS accredited.
How Does a Solar Company or Installer Become MCS Certified?
If you’re a qualified solar installer who is not MCS certified but would like to be, you’ll need to prepare for your application as follows:
Establish a Quality Management System (QMS). Your QMS is a set of procedures that mean you are working to the MCS’s standards. You’ll need to carry out internal reviews to ensure you comply with supply, design and installation standards and ensure there is a ‘nominee’ who will oversee the work to ensure it meets MCS high standards.
Ahead of your application you’ll need to prepare technical reference documents, client records, appropriate equipment, record of complaints and complaints procedure, training certificates, evidence of public liability insurance and list of building installation work carried out previously so an assessor can see work you’ve carried out in the past.
You can then apply to a certification body for your assessment.
How Much Does MCS Certification Cost?
There is a non-refundable application fee, an MCS license fee and an annual registration fee per technology you wish to install. The prices will vary depending on the certification body you choose. There is also a small fee each time you register a new installation with the scheme.
How Long Does it Take to Become MCS Certified?
It usually takes around 4-6 weeks from the date of application for an MCS inspector to come out. You should find out if you’ve been successful with your certification on the day.