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Heat pump training and RHIs

The announcement of heat pump training programs by Daikin and ICS/DeLonghi is further proof that manufacturers are gearing up for an upturn in demand, but is the industry ready?

Following the announcement that Daikin and ICS/DeLonghi have launched heat pump based engineer training schemes, the signs are that the industry is continuing to gear up for the forthcoming Renewable Heat Incentives scheme (RHIs) – available from mid-2011.

The incentives are seen in some quarters as the stimulus that’s needed to take heat pumps to a wider audience, and manufacturers are keen not to be left behind as the time approaches.

A total of £850m is being made available over the spending period, which the Government hopes will drive a ten-fold increase of renewable heat over the coming decade.

Garry Broadbent, director at ICS Heat Pumps, which has teamed up with DeLonghi to produce its Approved Partner Scheme, says: “Our hope is that the RHI will spur on the demand for heat pumps long-term, creating enough awareness to kick on after the subsidy dies off.”

It’s predicted that sales will account for 50,000 units by 2015.

Pippa Wibberley, commercial director of heating at Daikin, which recently launched its heat pump based Business Support Programme for engineers, believes the market will double in the first year with the advent of RHI.

She says: “The combination of RHIs and the policy on new build social housing shows that the Government has made a clear commitment to green technology. The traditional heating market is now changing.”

Indeed, Daikin’s training announcement follows on from ICS/DeLonghi’s scheme, which also focuses on training and promotion support.

Earlier in the year Vent Axia announced it planned to establish a national engineer network to compliment its newly launched heat pump product range, in a move that would make it “a hub of knowledge in the heat pump sector.”

The company has also launched a Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) accreditation programme, aimed at assisting engineers in gaining accreditation after predicting a be a shortfall in qualified installers.

And it’s this issue that could potentially stall the success of any RHI backed heat pump surge.

MCS is a recognised quality assurance scheme, similar to the Gas Safe Register. It shows a mark of competency and knowledge, and exhibits to customers that a company can install to a level of quality.

Installer certification entails assessing the supply, design, installation, set-to-work and commissioning of renewable microgeneration technologies.

What is most pertinent about MCS accreditation is that it’s a legal prerequisite for companies who install RHI purchased heat pumps. If a company doesn’t have it, then it can’t partake.

Easy MCS, which assists companies in attaining MCS accreditation & certification for renewable installers and is partnering DeLonghi as part of its APP training programme, has recently voiced concerns over the lack of accredited installers.

It estimates that there are only 350 MCS accredited installers currently operating, however it predicts that as demand raises the industry will need in excess of 20,000 to meet the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s predictions.

Tom Farquhor, sales manager at Easy MCS, said: “The message is still not getting through. Many engineers are not aware of the accreditation and are therefore going to be caught out when RHIs become available. The current figure is not as high as it should be. MCS is viewed by many engineers as something that either doesn’t concern them, or seems too complicated to partake in.”

Mike Nankivell, business development manager at Space Air, concurs, believing that MCS take-up has faulted after the demise of the Low Carbon Building fund.

“There has been a noticeable lull in the take up of MCS due to a gap in between incentives, compounded by the deliberation over the format that RHIs will take. There is no doubt this will be an issue demand increases next year.

Mr Nankivell also reserves some doubt over the £850m set aside. “If the sum total of RHIs is just the money allocated, though it might seem a lot, I have difficulty understanding how this will support heat pump sales over a sustained period, when you consider that it is competing with other renewable technologies for funding.”

He believes that an arrangement with energy providers may be reached as part of the offering, which will be based on a kW allowance discount to end users, but this approach may have wider negative consequences.

“If energy companies are involved they may look to make up the cost reduction on energy used for renewable by raising prices elsewhere.”

Though RHIs will undoubtedly create added interest in heat pumps, not all are convinced it will bring the surge that many predict.

Graham Hendra, director at Freedom Heat Pumps, remains unconvinced over the potential of RHIs in significantly boosting sales, seeing more of a natural graduation

“There is currently serious money available from incentives for Solar PVs, though not many are buying into that. I can’t see the government being so generous with RHIs, and let’s be realistic, we are talking about something that costs £10k in total.”

 

HEAT PUMP TRAINING PROGRAMMES

ICS/DELONGHI

Split into four categories, the Approved Partner Programme (APP) is designed to “provide the business partner with a range of specialist areas to support their business”

There are three training courses on offer:

  • Logic Accredited Heat Pump Training Course aimed at those who wish to provide heat pumps in domestic and commercial properties. The course provides demonstratable level of competency when applying for MCS Installer Accreditation. Cost is £295 (includes £200 discount)
  • One day Product Programme covers practical and theory training course aimed at MCS accredited or experienced heat pump installers, who want to gain a knowledge of ICS DeLonghi products. This can be split either focus on technical/installation or sales/business development.
  • Company Sales and Technical is a free one day product, practical and theory training, together with a range of informal training modules, which can be tailored to requirements and delivered throughout the UK
  • Training can also be provided at a site survey or project meeting, to discuss particular applications on a one to one basis.

There is also ongoing marketing, technical and information based assistance for the engineer.

DAIKIN

Designed to “raise standards, set industry benchmarks and help you develop both products and expertise,” there are five regional centres – Glasgow, Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester and Woking – available, as well as a affiliated college in East Anglia.

Four courses are available covering subjects such as installation, commissioning, selection, application and servicing – all based on specific Daikin Altherma products. All come at a charge, however this is refunded on the first purchase of a Daikin heat pump.

TRAINING

  • Low temperature split systems installation and commissioning including Monobloc - £300
  • Low and high temperature split systems selection and application including Monobloc - £150
  • Low temperature split systems advanced service and fault finding including Monobloc - £150 (2 x evening sessions £180)
  • High temperature split systems installation and commissioning - £300

As part of the programme Daikin will provide an on-sight engineer to assist with any commissioning and installation issues out in the field.

The company also claims that it is currently looking into the issue of MCS accreditation and how it can help engineers attain it in as part of an expanded training program.

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