Itron, a technology and services company dedicated to the resourceful use of energy and water, has revealed that 72% of heating engineers have been called back to projects in the last three years to address problems with the installation of renewable heat meters.
Its research, ‘Understanding Renewable Heat Meter Installations’, was commissioned for the second consecutive year by Itron and undertaken by Dynamic Markets. The latest research report comes three years after the introduction of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) for commercial properties and a year after the domestic RHI launched in April 2014. Research findings year-over-year show a significant increase from 29% to 72% of engineers being call backed to address installation problems over the previous three years. In addition, approximately 15% of RHI participants surveyed had one of their heat meter installations fail an RHI inspection.
Bernard McWeeney, water and heat manager at Itron, said: “There has been a massive amount of growth in the industry over the last two years, which has resulted in the growing number of installers that need training. The skills shortages we have seen in the report are surprising given the fact that the Department of Energy & Climate Change has invested in training and has engaged a lot of people as a result.
“It is vital for the credibility of the renewable heat industry that installers are supported with appropriate guidance, training and standards. This is especially true because metering is mandatory for commercial renewable heat projects to qualify under the RHI.”
The Dynamic Markets’ research showed additional inefficiencies that hinder installers’ ability to keep their costs under control:
- In the last 12 months alone, 44% of the installers have been called back to address problems with heat meters on renewable technologies
- On average, this group has had to return to a single customer site four times in a 12-month period to correct installations, while the maximum was 20 visits to a single household.
The research, which surveyed 100 Microgeneration Certification Scheme certified heating engineers, depicts apprehension in the industry, with 72% of heat engineers saying they find the current RHI heat meter regulations confusing to some degree. Coupled with the high proportion of callbacks and confusion, the research also found that 69% of certified heat engineers have not had any training on the installation of heat meters for renewable applications.
The survey also revealed a lack of clarity on RHI standards, particularly when it comes to the use of inhibitors that prevent meters from being affected by cold outdoor conditions. Glycol is one such inhibitor that acts as an anti-freezing agent in meters that are positioned in outdoor environments, and works by lowering the freezing temperature of water. However, many are unclear about its use within RHI installations. Overall, 79% of heat engineers find at least one element of installations that require inhibitors confusing. Of those who have had an RHI inspection fail in the last two years, 36% have failed because of inhibitors.
Itron has assumed a conservative figure of £150 per meter installation. This figure has then been multiplied by 165,000, which is the expected number of commercial installations requiring a meter within the RHI. The resulting figure of £24,750,000 represents the cost of installing mandatory meters. Based upon the 29% of meter installations where installers have been called back, £17,820,000 has been arrived upon as the amount money wasted, due to inadequate training on fitting meters.