WHY YOU SHOULD CHOOSE AN MCS INSTALLER FOR YOUR HEAT PUMP PROJECT

heat pump

Just like with any heating system installation, you want to make sure you’re working with a competent company. However, with heat pumps it is especially important to ensure they are designed and commissioned correctly for the building.

Choose an MCS Installer

There are certain standards and accreditation’s to look out for before choosing your heat pump installer. Most importantly, you should always use an MCS Accredited Installer. This is vital to ensure the heat pump is sufficiently sized and that the whole system including the distribution (radiators or underfloor) has been designed accordingly. Alto Energy are a MCS Accredited Installer so will ensure this happens on each and every install that is designed, supplied and commissioned by them.

If this design work is neglected, the efficiency and performance of the system can be significantly compromised. 99% of the time that a heat pump installation fails to meet expectations it is because the system has not been properly sized and designed by an appropriately accredited supplier (so blame a human not the technology).

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What is MCS?

MCS stands for the Microgeneration Certification Scheme, which is the set of a rules and standards that the heat pump industry is supposed to abide by. The MCS code dictates certain rules and regulations governing how a heat pump system must be designed and installed. If the installation of your Heat Pump system is not designed and managed by an MCS accredited installer who are providing an MCS Certificate as part of your contract, then you will not be able to register for the RHI grant payments.

ENERGY SAVING TRUST

Many of the standards incorporated into MCS were borne out of a mass heat pump trial started over 10 years ago by the Energy Saving Trust (“EST”). In a recent blog, the EST reflected on this trial by reiterating some of the key themes:

  • Heat pumps can provide an efficient alternative for householders
  • Heat pumps are sensitive to design and commissioning
  • Install the heat pump with low-temperature underfloor heating or properly sized radiators.
  • The EST has found that customer satisfaction rates with the performance of their Heat Pump systems have significantly increased since the introduction of the MCS code – this is because it ensures that systems are designed properly by appropriately qualified people.

In essence, the Energy Savings Trust makes clear the important of a heat pump system being designed properly from the outset, and this is exactly what you get working with an MCS installer like Alto Energy.

Why Choose MCS?

MCS is an eligibility requirement for the Government’s financial incentives including  the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). This means that if you don’t deal with a fully MCS accredited company to commission your heat pump then you could miss out on thousands of pounds of government incentives. 

Furthermore, choosing an MCS accredited installer gives you the following benefits:

  • Insurance-backed guarantees. All contracts with an MCS installer come with insurance-backed guarantees for your deposit payments and the workmanship
  • Quality assurance. All MCS installers are audited regularly to ensure they meet the standards of the scheme
  • Planning Permission. Air source heat pumps are a permitted development SO LONG as they are being installed by an MCS accredited installer who completes a noise assessment in line with the MCS requirements.

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What if you’re a Developer – Why Choose Alto Energy?

If you’re a developer building new houses, you aren’t usually eligible for the Renewable Heat Incentive payments. So developers often ask us, what are the benefits in choosing an MCS installer? We set out a number of further benefits of working with Alto Energy below:

  • We provide a comprehensive warranty package directly to the end user. This means that any technical questions or issues the homeowner might have, we deal directly with the customer. This saves developers a lot of hassle, particularly with a new technology.
  • Heat pumps installed by an MCS installer get a significant uplift in the SAP calculations, meaning that your investment in heat pump technology is rewarded with even bigger carbon savings in the Building Regulations calculation.
  • Being the main UK dealer for IVT Bosch, and a Business Solutions Partner for Mitsubishi, we offer a minimum 5 year warranty on all products that we supply. If ordering through other suppliers, the default warranty is just two years.
  • As stated above the EST found that customer satisfaction rates with the performance of their Heat Pump systems have massively increased since the introduction of the MCS code – this is because it ensures systems are designed properly by appropriately qualified people. So even though you don’t need MCS for the RHI eligibility, it is still essential for you to ensure that you have a properly designed and performing system. Cutting corners by not going through an MCS certified supplier is a road that leads to poor performance, and unhappy home owners.

The growing impact of sustainability for small and medium sized businesses – how we can all thrive in the face of continually rising energy costs

solar energy for business

Ultimately, it’s a sad fact of life that everyone has to pay the bills. We are buying energy, there is no choice about that, but the traditional cost of that energy, electricity for example, is continually rising.

The UK Government has tried to help by introducing caps on the amounts that electricity companies can charge, but they have already had to allow the caps to rise as the wholesale cost of electricity has risen too much, driven by the international costs of energy and its availability.

So, the big question is, ‘how can we reduce the overall cost of our energy, and stop the continual price rises?’

The key point for business owners to remember when looking at their day to day costs, is that they could actually be looking at investing in renewable energy to reduce their energy bills in the long term. It’s all about making the correct investment decisions to manage the long term sustainability of your business, as well as the environment.

One of the historical barriers to this, however, is the need to find capital to invest in renewable energy in the first place. Today, there are lots of ways to generate that capital – it can be borrowed, come from cash reserves if available, be achieved through various financing arrangements such as power purchase agreements or leases where systems are inherited after a period of time. You could also consider a hybrid of these options to suit your own requirements. This means that the traditional capital barriers are being reduced with the availability of funding options at very low interest rates, making it a lot easier to make the right choices.

Another potential barrier is choosing where to spend your money wisely in the face of many different options available to you. One of the big advantages with renewable energy is its longevity – with a minimum of 10 years (or 25 year production warranties on solar), you would be investing in something that is protected for an extremely long time, not to mention the tax advantages by investing in this equipment.

The pressure to ‘do the right thing’ also supports the need to make longer term investments, not just for businesses today, but also for the future with sustainable buildings and future occupants, even if the current businesses are not around in their current form 20 years from now.

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But businesses don’t just need to focus just on the ‘big ticket’ items for renewable energy – if they are not able to make larger investments, they can still demonstrate their green credentials with simple items such as LED lightbulbs, more efficient heating, looking at efficient transportation and vehicle emissions etc. which will have the added benefit of lowering their day to day operating costs.

This puts an interesting perspective on the ‘real-life’ impact of renewable energy, as historically people will have looked at it as a significant capital investment which therefore potentially makes it cost prohibitive, whereas now we are all much more aware of other operational costs within a business – money that is being spent anyway – that could be better deployed to save money, as well as reducing the impact on the environment. Things like utilities, transportation and lighting, which also drive behavioural changes and awareness throughout an entire workforce to support performance improvements.

A 20% cut in energy costs represents the same bottom line benefit as a 5% increase in sales in many businesses.

Source: Carbon Trust

The traditional business model is to focus on driving growth through more sales and turnover, but controlling costs is equally as important for business success, with a major impact on the bottom line.

We’re encouraging business owners to look at the way they do business and manage their business performance in a different way.

Don’t just focus on the usual ‘reduce costs and sell more’ approach, but also think about a 3rd dimension of creating a sustainable environment for the future whilst identifying new ways to improve your business performance.

Increasingly, responsible businesses are being run using a method called the ‘triple bottom line’ – they are clearly looking at traditional economic accounting, but are also accounting for the environmental impact of their business, whether that is through renewable energy or waste management for example. Many businesses are now actually turning waste via recycling into an income stream, rather than the historical cost of disposal, which is just one example of how doing the right thing can actually ‘win’ economically.

But it doesn’t stop there – there are also social implications as there is statistical evidence that shows people want to work for environmentally responsible companies; it helps with recruitment and retention. There is also evidence to show that businesses in the supply chain want to work with other responsible businesses, sometimes for legislative reasons, but more often its because they want to be associated with reputationally high quality organisations that are focused on ‘doing the right thing’. And finally, more customers will be attracted to responsible businesses and want to do business with them, often prepared to pay a premium to demonstrate their support for sustainable industries.

And the benefits continue as it also helps to enhance your business reputation, both externally and internally, helping to recruit and retain quality staff by demonstrating your Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) credentials and being seen to be a ‘good business to work with’.

Sustainable initiatives can be good for your business

What we are beginning to see now is that it’s not as hard as you may have thought to contribute and make changes that can reduce your impact on the environment. Making the right decisions can actually be good for your business.

Socially, everyone should be thinking more about the personal impact they are making on the environment, changing behaviour to consider things such as waste management and energy usage.

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In fact, the government are now launching new initiatives to support the installation of energy efficient measures in homes across the UK. For example, the Green Homes Grant Scheme will pay homeowners two-thirds of the installation cost up to £5,000 for renewable energy solutions such as heat pumps or solar thermal systems.

Encourage everyone to accept that there are real benefits in understanding environmental issues at all levels, but also start taking actions now to make a difference – it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to be sustainable, we all need to play our part with a hugely increased sense of urgency.

How Can The National Grid Help Make the UK’s Net Zero Target a Reality?

National Grid Net Zero

Climate change is the greatest challenge facing mankind at this time. Decisions we make now will determine the future of our planet and life on earth. It has become crucial that we change the way we live in order to reduce harmful carbon emissions and reach net zero by 2050.

Time is running out and acting now is the only way forward. In the next ten years the renewable energy industry must fulfil a number of goals.

There is much work to be done but the future looks promising with the emergence of viable technologies as well as some political commitment and investment.

Undoubtedly, in order to have any chance of reaching net zero by 2050 big changes need to be made. Currently 85 per cent of homes and 40 per cent of the UK’s power needs are supplied by gas. If the UK is to become one of the world’s first net zero economies by 2050 the gas sector needs to set out a plan for decarbonisation. In the next decade alone, it is essential that low carbon heating systems are installed in approximately 2.8 million homes.

Nicola Shaw, Executive director at the National Grid has laid out some ways that both her company and the UK can make the most of the huge opportunities that will come with the progression to net zero emissions. The National Grid is working with their industry partners as part of the Future Gas Forum to research different ways that our homes can be warm but environmentally friendly. One of their main proposals is a switch to hydrogen which is cleaner than the methane most often used at present. There are various difficulties that need to be overcome such as producing hydrogen at scale and adapting the current infrastructure. Tests are being carried out on ways of safely transporting hydrogen around the transmission network. An example of this is Project Cavendish which is researching ways that hydrogen can be produced, stored, and imported at the Isle of Grain in Kent, to get hydrogen to the South of London. Other projects are looking at how hydrogen or a mix of hydrogen and methane can be carried around the gas transmission network. All these projects are vital if low carbon energy, is to be delivered reliably and safely to all consumers. 

In another bid to make carbon savings, the National Grid has been sending robots down high-pressure gas pipelines to carry out checks and repairs. This not only reduces maintenance costs but also generates annual savings of more than 2,000 tonnes of carbon which is the equivalent to the emissions of 500 households.

The changeover to electric cars is another very important condition in the shift to net zero emissions by 2050. The UK needs to see the installation of approximately 60,000 charging points to power nearly 11 million electric vehicles in the next decade.

The National Grid has come up with a proposal to install a network of ultra-fast chargers at UK motorway service stations which would cut charge time to as little as five to 10 minutes. They appreciate that with new petrol and diesel cars no longer on the market from 2035 they need to be prepared for the big increase in electric cars. They believe that faster transition is possible and that they are robust enough to cope with the forecast uptake in EVs. They do think though that some targeted investment will be required to ensure that there are suitable places where drivers can access sufficient high-power charging away from home.

In alliance with Equinor and Drax, the National Grid is investigating the possibility of achieving the creation of a net zero industrial cluster in the Humber region. The three companies together are committed to £800,000 of funding as part of a £2.6m project to plan out industrial decarbonisation on a grand scale. The Humber area employs 55,000 people and contributes £18bn towards UK GDP making it already home to the UK’s largest industrial economy. The workforce has a significant skillset established from taking part in activities such as refining, petrochemicals, and manufacturing. Using this experience and adding the right support and carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) technology means that Humber and by default the UK, will lead the way in decarbonisation and regeneration of the area.

Today, the UK has 10GW of offshore wind but this needs to take a giant leap to 75GW under net zero. Up until now the National Grid has connected wind farms to the grid one by one but this needs to change now to allow for the further 65GW needed. Long-term solutions need to be developed to ensure we don’t create bottlenecks and that disruption to coastal communities is minimal. The National Grid fully supports the government’s recent review into offshore wind farms. They are playing their part by evaluating the costs and benefits of different coordinated network designs and technologies. In doing this they can encourage innovation, harness the economic benefits, and create highly skilled jobs.

It is vital that in the next decade that low carbon electricity generation is increased by approximately 50% from sources such as wind or solar power.

National Grid Partners, has backed a range of companies that are assisting the progress of a lower carbon future. One example of this is Autogrid which is developing sophisticated technology to bring more renewable energy into the system. Another example is Carbon Lighthouse which is helping building owners to cut energy waste to fight climate change.

We have already passed the point that saw most of the UK’s energy coming from coal-fired power stations. Those days are over. To ensure that this continues the National Grid is creating a network of interconnectors. These undersea cables enable smarter energy systems to react quickly to changes in supply and demand, ensuring renewable energy flows from where it is being generated in large quantities, to where it is needed most. Over £3 billion has been invested in 4.4GW of new interconnector capacity since 2014, which provides access to enough electricity to power 11 million homes. There is potential to add a further 9.5 GW of interconnectors in order to deliver a smarter, more flexible future energy system.

The number one aim for the National Grid is to enable the transition to a clean and low carbon future but they are also looking closely at their own operations to ensure they are doing the right thing. In the UK, the National Grid has promised to replace over 50 per cent of their internal fleet with alternative fuel vehicles by 2026. They are continuing to lead in developing alternatives to the insulating gas SF6 and will no longer install any equipment that uses this greenhouse gas. Further to this they are also looking at lower carbon construction methods and have set a target of increasing the energy efficiency of their own buildings by 10 per cent.  

You may not have realised that the National Grid had such a pivotal role to play in tackling climate change but they are doing much more than just keeping the lights on or the gas flowing.

Oil & Gas Majors Expedite Their Move to Renewables

oil and gas investment

The year 2020 will go down in history as the point when the long-awaited energy transition to a low-carbon future went from being a topic of debate to something far more tangible. The effects of the global pandemic of 2020 will be remembered for a long time to come. The world-wide lockdown dramatically reduced the demand for oil and gas but provided a big boost for renewables. The speed at which the move away from fossil fuels happens will still not be fast enough for many people but will far outstrip previous and current forecasts. Covid-19 is just one part of what is a complex story.

Fossil fuel companies are turning towards wind and solar in a big way after seeing oil futures dropping below zero in April this year. Mona Dajani, partner and global head of energy and infrastructure at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP in New York said in a phone interview with BloombergNEF in June that she is also increasingly seeing storage bundled into packages with wind and solar.

Big oil companies have long realised that the future lies ultimately with renewable energy. Both oil and gas prices have been in decline since 2014. Following the spread of Covid-19 and the inevitable recession that has followed it numerous planned projects are no longer commercially viable. Oil is of course still required as demand cannot be easily substituted in areas such as freight or air transport. The International Energy Agency has predicted that renewable energy generation will more than quadruple by 2040 and this is probably a very conservative estimate knowing the history of their projects.

In particular, European-based oil and gas companies such as BP, Shell, Equinor and Total have realised that for commercial reasons alone they need to be on the green side of the future. This is happening at the same time that energy consuming companies in many other industrial sectors are coming to the same conclusion. Companies both oil and gas producing, and guzzling are understanding that there is no point in resisting the path to renewables as it is not only a waste of time but bad for business.

Electric vehicles are continuing to grow in number and with dozens of new models coming online in the next year we should see an ongoing shift to electric vehicles over the next two decades.

The big utilities and oil super majors are establishing their place in offshore wind. In order to survive they need to develop this arm of their business. They are bringing funds to capital intensive projects. Fossil fuel super majors are repurposing some of the infrastructure needed on flagships and offshore cranes. The consolidation of the industry is a great step forward for renewables. 

Big oil companies are adapting their businesses to stay relevant. One of the first big oil companies to take renewable energy seriously was Total. The European energy giant bought a majority stake in SunPower, the solar energy choice for homeowners and businesses around the world and acquired Saft, which is now building some of the biggest energy storage projects in the world. 

Interestingly, Total’s move into renewable energy makes the company look more like a utility than a traditional oil and gas company. The company is changing its business model in order to survive. In 2020, the company expects to grow gross global renewable energy capacity to 6 gigawatts (GW) from about 3 GW in 2019. That’s enough to power 1.14 million U.S. homes. 

Total is planning to have low carbon electricity operations account for 15% to 20% of its sales mix by 2040. This may not seem like a lot for an energy company but it’s important to remember that big oil companies are in the process of navigating massive businesses slowly away from fossil fuels to other forms of energy. Total is moving faster than most of its rivals but getting ahead of the game is wise as renewable energy becomes a larger portion of the world’s energy mix.

As one of the world’s largest independent oil refiners, you would not normally associate Valero Energy with renewable energy. They manufacture and sell transportation fuels and currently operate 15 petroleum refineries and 14 ethanol plants. Now, however it has a stake in the largest renewable diesel plant in North America. Valero operates Diamond Green Diesel, a renewable diesel joint venture with Darling Ingredients in Louisiana. Though it’s still only a small portion of its business relative to petroleum, the renewable diesel segment grew 80% in 2019.

Though you wouldn’t normally think of Clean Energy Fuels as an oil company as such it does match the definition of a fossil fuels company working to transition to renewables. Clean Energy has already moved a bigger share of its business to renewables than most other energy companies. Their core business is selling natural gas to transportation customers. Natural gas has much cleaner emissions than diesel and as more companies, investors and municipalities are keen to prioritise environmental measures, Clean Energy’s fuel volume sales have grown quickly.

The big oil and gas majors are well placed to expand into the renewable energy industry as they already have the money, the talent, and a lot of the existing infrastructure. They also have the mandate to move into this space. It’s almost like, a win-win situation for both the company and the renewable industry. The once solely traditional fossil fuel companies are gradually changing the way that they are perceived and although they are very much driven by profits it’s also a survival strategy.