Category Archives: renewables

MCS to tighten sales rules

MCS are consulting on changes to their rules that will tighten up the gap that has allowed sales organisations to side-step the REAL code that controls the way prospective customers are treated.

The major change is that “A contract for the sale and installation of a system shall be entered into only between an MCS certified Company and a Customer.” This effectively means that any third-party sales organisations will now have to become MCS certified (and REAL members) in order to continue in business.

These changes follow on from complaints made to MCS that some companies were using dubious tactics, which were outside the terms laid down by the REAL code of practice, to secure sales of PV systems.

More info on the consultation at –

Proven taken over by Kingspan

It is reported that Kingspan Renewables have taken over the small wind turbine maker Proven Energy.

It appears that production of the 3kW and 6kW (P7 and P11) models will continue, but that any plans to re-start production of the larger P35-2 model, which was the subject of the failures that precipitated the closure of the company, are less likely.

It seems that liability for existing warranties was not part of the transfer and anyone with a claim should contact KPMG, the liquidators.

Export metering for systems above 30kW

I was asked the other day to confirm the details of the requirement for half-hourly export metering on a 50kW system and what documentary evidence there exists that could be quoted to suppliers and DNOs (it seems they are not familiar with it themselves!). The FiTs legislation makes it clear (in section 14.1) that export metering is optional for systems up to 30kW but is mandatory for larger installations. But what about the choice between a half-hourly meter (one that keeps 48 separate readings across the course of a 24 hour day) and a more normal (and cheaper) non half-hourly meter?

The 30kW threshold comes from something called the ‘Small Scale Third Party Generating Plant Limit’ which is a term used under the ‘Balancing and Settlement Code’. The BSC itself is the set of rules that are laid down to control the processes that apply to the inter company adjustments that enable the open electricity market that we have in the UK.

The documentation behind this seemingly arbitrary threshold (it can be referred to as ‘the SSTPGP limit under the BSC’ for short!) is a little obtuse.

The full technical document is ‘Code of Practice Part L of the Balancing and Settlement Code’ – CoP L BSC – – Here section 1.5 covers SSTPGP and 2.2.1 defines when a half-hourly metering system should be used. Para 2.2.1c here allows a normal non-half hourly meter to be used for systems below the 30kW threshold but requires an half-hourly meter for systems above that limit.

This document gives more of an overview of the backroom processes involved –

The most recent review (of whether the limit should remain at 30kW or be changed) is detailed in this document: – and this confirms that 30kW is still the relevant threshold.

So the SSTPGP limit is currently set at 30kW and a half-hourly meter is required for systems exporting above that limit and this is required in order to comply with BSC CoP L 2.2.1c.

Proven in administration

The BBC have just reported that Proven Energy, wind turbine manufacturers, have been placed in administration.

Hopefully for existing owners, such as myself, they will find a buyer who will at least continue to make and support the 2.5kW and 6kW models.

The less said about the 15kW machine the better.

I do wonder how much the FiTs (with its massive over-incentive for PV versus wind) and the extra costs for manufacturers, associated with MCS product testing, has contributed to this.

New permitted development legislation for England

After a couple of years of delay the government have finally brought in amended legislation to allow permitted development for the installation of small wind turbines and air source heat pumps (ASHPs) on domestic premises in England. (Wales still has to wait a little longer.)

The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (England) Order 2011 also rolls in the revised wording for solar roof-top installations that allows systems on roofs in conservation areas, that had previously been the subject of an amendment.

Permitted development for both wind turbines and ASHPs is subject to an array of conditions, which in the main are in line with conditions imposed on all previous renewable technologies. The most notable are that products and installs must comply with MCS Planning Standards. More on this later once Gemserv have made those documents available.

For roof mounted turbines (never something I advise) the tallest part of the blades must not go 3m above the roofline (excluding any chimney) and cannot exceed a total of 15m in height.

Ground mounted turbines cannot exceed 11.1m in height. And in both cases the swept area of the blades cannot exceed 3.8 square metres. This will limit the blade diameter to 2.25m and effectively means that the capacity of the turbine can be little more than 1kW at 11m/s wind speed.

Renewable Heat Premium Payments details announced

DECC have published a factsheet covering the terms of the Renewable Heat Premium Payment (RHPP) that serves as an interim measure to incentivise take up of renewable heat systems until the full Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) comes in to force for domestic properties.

Of special note is confirmation of the earlier rumour that RHPP (and possibly therefore also applies to the full RHI) payments are only going to be made available to properties that are not connected to the gas grid. Solar thermal is an exception to this.

The scheme is limited to £12 million and is being administered by the Energy Saving Trust on a first-come first-served basis.

Payments will be:
– solar thermal £300
– biomass boiler £950
– air source heat pump £850
– ground source heat pump £1250

At these rates the £12 million budget will only fund around 15,000 properties:
4000 x £300
4000 x £950
4000 x £850
3000 x £1250

totals £12.15 million.

DECC press release now says that £15 million is available “to support up to 25,000 installations” but with a review once £10 million has been reached.

It also looks like early adopters get disadvantaged again as the RHPP will only apply to systems that are to be installed from today onwards. The full RHI was always supposed to be available to systems installed on or after 15th July 2009. I’m waiting for the EST to confirm this – calls to their Helpline 0800 512 012 are not being answered at present as they are probably inundated.

PV installs and Building Regs

There appears to be much disquiet at the moment over exactly how PV installation works are covered by Building Regulations.

Many Local Authority Building Control (LABC) departments are advising concerned callers that a Building Notice application is required at a cost, in some instances, of over £350 – even where the installer will be both MCS accredited and a member of a Part P electrical competent person scheme – in order to cover the non-Part P elements of the work, which would normally be Part A, covering any structural work on strengthening the roof. And it seems that this situation has not been helped by some rather unguarded comments issuing from the NICEIC.

As far as I can see any Building Notice required under Part A would be for notifying that strengthening works are to be or have been carried out on a roof – as a result of a structural survey.

There is no need to notify LABC that a roof is simply being assessed as to its suitability to carry a higher load or that a higher load is being imposed – with no need to strengthen it.

And any building work that is associated with Part P work (which is what a PV install is as far as the Building Regs are concerned) is automatically covered by the Part P CPS self-certification. This is written into the Building Regs legislation and has been since day 1 of Part P. In fact the wording to cover associated building work under CPS self-certification was first introduced way back in 2002.

So, as far as the legislation is concerned, if an installer is competent to self-certify for the Part P electrical work then they are also considered competent for all the other work carried out at the same time and, as far as the LABC should be concerned, is covered by the same self-certification.

This all comes hot on the heels of the recent news that some Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) were advising homeowners that their planned PV installation required planning approval even though it would usually be covered by the revised Permitted Development legislation that has been introduced by central government over the past few years – specifically to remove this particular barrier to the wider roll-out of microgeneration.

I suppose that this sort of reaction by LABCs and LPAs is a result, in these days of financial restraint, of scrambling to get as much revenue in from their customers as possible. But this is not the right (or legal) way of doing it.

The relevant parts are included in paras 17 and 20 of Schedule 3 of the Building Regulations 2010.

Impact of DECC FiTs review – the graphs

Here are a couple of graphs that demonstrate visually the impact that the recent DECC ‘fast-track’ review of over 50kW PV rates will have.

First we look at the full range of possible systems covered by FiTs from 0 to 5MW. The blue region shows the annual income (in £,000 on the vertical axis) for each size of system – shown in kW along the horizontal axis – using the existing rates. The red region shows the predicted annual income once the new rates will come into effect.

The size of the reduction is pretty clear.  But let’s zoom in on that area in the bottom left hand corner and have a closer look at the effect on systems just up to 500kW.

Here we can now clearly see the effect of the new bands that have been introduced – at 50kW, 150kW and 250kW. You can see that the annual income from a 251kW system is very little more than for a system of only 50kW, and that the income from a 251kW system will actually be less than for a 150kW system.

The new rates are due to come into effect for new systems commissioned on or after 1st August 2011.

(Annual income figures based on production of 1000 kWh per kWp. About right for the south of England.)

Links to the full-size images if anyone wants to use them: