Get the skills to keep up with the green revolution
Our guest columnist urges Members to ensure they’re ready to make the most of the opportunities available through the growth of renewable technology
New data released from MCS in September showed that 2023 was a record year for renewables, with more than 120,000 certified PV panels, heat pumps and other renewable technologies installed in UK homes during the first six months – a 62% jump on previous years.
Solar PV in particular has seen massive growth, with 2023 set to pass the all-time annual record for solar panel installations, beating the dizzy heights set by the Feed in Tariff (FiT) in 2011. With the past 13 months accounting for half of all capacity installed since FiT came to an end in 2019, it proves we are truly in a ‘post-incentive’ era when it comes to PV. Dramatic reductions in hardware and rising energy prices have made solar more affordable than ever, with return on investment in a matter of years. This technology is now part of the electrical mainstream, with an increasing number of SELECT Members conducting installations.
Surge in self-sufficiency
Slower on the uptake, but very much part of improving the potential return of PV, is electrical energy storage systems (EESS), with around 10,000 domestic battery installs currently completed across the UK.
The promise of greater self-sufficiency and specialist EESS tariffs from the likes of Octopus that lead to bill savings with or without MCS means that this technology is poised for even greater popularity, so Members should start doing their homework now!
As the demand on the grid increases, energy providers need EESS in both industrial and residential settings to balance intermittent supply. With this in mind, it’s likely that more operators will introduce incentives to choose battery storage, potentially helping to further expand the market and reduce initial cost.
There are also clever developments in using car batteries as home batteries when an electric vehicle (EV) is parked on the drive – another reason to start investigating the options of how you can get involved with technology that’s here to stay.
Speaking of EVs, this summer saw a landmark moment, with 22 July 2023 heralded as the day with the largest amount of EVs on the road – 400,000 – and therefore the greatest need for charging.
The UK is still falling short when it comes to EV charging provision, offering a market opportunity for suitably trained installers that will accelerate as the ban on petrol and diesel cars moves closer.
EV charge points are already a legal requirement in new builds down south, and no doubt Members are increasingly being asked for installation north of the border too. Another reason to get trained and tap into a market that’s booming!
Heat pumps hotting up
Heat pumps are at a turning point in their mainstream appeal too. A landmark paper from Oxford University and the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) think tank called Coming in from the cold: Heat pump efficiency at low temperatures reveals that heat pumps outperform oil and gas heating, even at temperatures near -30°C.
Energy efficiency measures will of course reduce running costs, but the idea that this technology is somehow unsuitable for UK homes has been disproven time and time again, despite some loud detractors in the media.
While heat pump installs are nowhere near current government targets, low-price installations from the big energy providers and a new model by Aira that will see a full heat pump installation service for an affordable fixed monthly fee should see heat pumps go the same way as PV in the coming years. At present there are not enough installers to meet predicted demand and, as much of a heat pump install is electrical, it’s definitely an area that electricians should consider becoming skilled in. Heat pump specification and installation is undeniably more complicated than a gas boiler, but it will soon be made simple using the latest software and room surveying tools – see www.heatly.com for the kind of thing I mean.
In 2024, the smart phone will become the heat pump installer’s best friend, improving the accuracy and removing the hassle associated with heat loss calculations. Another approaching trend that it’s definitely worth investigating.
Join the renewables revolution
With solar PV and EV charging already included in the 18th Edition of BS 7671, all of this paints a very positive picture of the future of renewables and it’s clear their popularity is only going to go one way.
Specialist training in the individual technologies takes just a few days to complete and is relatively inexpensive, but can enhance the skillset of already experienced contractors and open new – and lucrative – doors for a business.
So if you’re not renewables ready yet, make 2024 the year YOU join the revolution.
GTEC delivers renewable qualifications across the UK, including solar PV, battery storage, EV charging and heat pump installation. An industry leader, GTEC MD Griff Thomas has contributed to most of the national renewable technology standards and is also part of the development team behind heatly, the new app and supporting software designed to make the process of choosing, specifying and installing a heat pump easier for installers and their customers. Part-funded under the Heat Pump Ready Stream 2 programme, it’s due for launch in 2024. Find out more at heatly.com and www.gtec.co.uk