One Man's Adventures into Renewal Energy

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Feed-In Tariffs / MCS / G83 for DIY Systems - My Diary

29th May 2012 - Introduction


As I'm close to getting my Solar Tracker up and running, I've decided to look at how I go about getting it connected to the electricity grid and getting hold of the much touted FiT (feed-in tariff) scheme.
For those of you that don't know what FiT is, it's a government backed scheme where electricity providers have to pay you for every KWH of electricity you pump into the grid. Currently they pay 21p per KWH.

The idea of earning money from a Solar Panel Systems sounds brilliant, however it's not quite as simple as building your Solar Array, plugging it into a socket in your house(using a grid tie inverter), watching your electric meter spin backwards , and then counting the money as it floods in.

The Government has decided that to qualify for the FiT scheme, any home based Renewable Energy project has to conform to certain standards. This standard is called MCS(Microgeneration Certification Scheme). This scheme has been created to ensure certain standards are met when it comes to installing Renewable Projects.
It also ensures equipment used is MCS certified & G83 certified. MCS certification applies to the Solar Panels themselves, making sure they are of good quality and that they will produce the quoted wattage. G83 applies to the Grid Tie Inverters, ensuring they are safe...basically the issue here is that G83 inverters have to stop pumping electricity to the grid when they detect the grid has gone dead. This ensures the safety of any electrical engineer who might be working on what they believe to be a completely powerless electric grid.

My opinion is that MCS is a good thing. It ensures installs are safe, ensures electrical connections are safe, and guarantees installs for a reasonable length of time.
But when it comes to DIY installs (like mine), the MCS doesn't really work. As I'm not an MCS engineer, I can't certify my DIY install, and because I can't certify, I can't get the FiT.

I find it annoying that the government has imposed this restriction.
Story goes - Man in shed pioneers new technology. Government realise they can exploit this new technology. Government wrap technology in reams of red tape. Technology becomes wildly expensive. Man in shed now cannot afford technology. MCS has effectively killed off the DIY side of Solar Installations...especially if you were planning on connecting your Solar system to the grid.

I could cry about it, but there's not a lot I can do. So I've decided to look at alternatives.
Some that sprang to mind -

30th May 2012 - Contacted several government bodies

Today I've decided to contact a couple of Government bodies regarding the MCS/G83/FiT situation.
I am going to ask them exactly what the situation is regarding getting FiT and/or Export Tariff for DIY installs.


DECC - Department of Energy & Climate

Rang them using the number publicised on their website - 0300 060 4000
Gentleman answered my call very quickly.
I asked him "I am currently undertaking a Solar DIY project in my back garden and was wondering how I obtain the FiT for my project?"
His response was simply "I don't know". I probed him further but it was clear he wasn't clued up on the whole thing.
He recommended I call the "Energy Saving Advice Line" and gave me a number of 0300 123 1234.

Energy Saving Advice Line

A lady answered my call very quickly.
She proceeded to ask me several questions, such as name, address, telephone number and email address
After all this I was then able to ask my question - "I am currently undertaking a Solar DIY project in my back garden and was wondering how I obtain the FiT for my project?"
She told me what I already knew, and that I would need it to be MCS certified.
I asked her why a capable human being with an inclination towards DIY couldn't do it themselves.
She said it was to ensure everything conforms to standards and there is no way around MCS.
I then asked "OK, forget FiT, how about just getting the Export Tariff?"
The answer was "You still need MCS"
I then explained my frustrations about the whole thing and how this government red tape is stifling innovation.
I mentioned how pretty much every other major European country allows DIY renewable projects.
At this point I realised I was bleating on to a young girl who could do nothing about my situation, other than telling me the facts.
So I asked her how I could complain - she said to contact DECC (Department of Energy & Climate)...and that is exactly what I'm going to do!

Watch this space!

I've decided to draft a letter and email the following organisations -
Here is a copy of the letter I've sent -

Big Quotation Mark Top Left Hello,

I am writing to you to bring to your attention a frustration of mine.
This frustration is regarding Renewable Energy and more to the point, the new Government Scheme of MCS for Renewable Energy installations.

You may or may not be aware that the Government has introduced a scheme whereby members of the public can receive payment for Energy they produce using Renewable Energy. The payments are called FiT (Feed-In Tariff). This Renewable Energy could be in the form of
solar electricity (PV) (roof mounted or stand alone)
wind turbines (building mounted or free standing)
hydroelectricity
anaerobic digesters
micro combined heat and power (CHP).
The current rate received is 21p per KWH Generated and a further 3.2p per KWH exported.
In my opinion this is marvellous. People can do their bit for the environment and at the same time receive some recompense for the investment they made in whatever renewable energy project they pursue.
The sticking point for me in all this, and the reason why Im writing to you, is the fact that in order to receive the FiT payments above, any renewable energy project has to be installed by an MCS (Microgeneration Certification Scheme) certified engineer/company.
So if someone wants to go green and benefit from the FiT, they have to pay an external company to do the install for them, usually at great cost. Im sure that 99% of people are more than happy to pay their installer to do the work, knowing that theyve had the install done to certain agreed standards set out in the MCS.
However, I fall into the 1% category and would rather attempt the install myself. I consider myself a rather deft DIYer. And because of my inclination towards doing it myself in most things in life, Ive developed a reasonable skill set. I consider installing a Solar Array not beyond my abilities.
But it seems that even though I am more than prepared to DIY, ensuring equipment purchased meets MCS standards and the Grid-Tie Inverter is G83 compliant (two technical requirements of MCS certification), Ive hit a huge brick wall. That brick wall being that because Ill be lacking that all important MCS certificate, Ill fail in obtaining FiT for any Energy I put into the grid.

As a workaround Ive emailed a few local MCS engineers and asked if theyll quote on certifying my DIY system. One came back with a quote of 600, doubling the cost of my install and doubling my ROI. This doesnt seem a fair cost for something Im doing for altruistic reasons.

What Im asking is for DIYers to be considered in the FiT scheme. Im not even fussed about receiving the current rate of 21p per KWH produced; Id be a happy with a nominal fee of 1p per KWH. As I say, Im doing this for altruistic reasons, but some recognition would be appreciated.

Heres hoping that the men in shed pioneers of this country are not completely ignored.

Gavin. Big Quotation Mark Bottom Right

31st May 2012 - Found an E-Petition

Whilst browsing the Government's E-Petition website, I came across a petition that directly relates to MCS...and the scrapping of MCS. I've signed it. If you agree to what is being suggested, please sign it too - https://submissions.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/26130

1st June 2012 - Reply from OFGEM

I've had a reply from OFGEM! Sadly, it confirms everything I already knew, that being I won't get fit, but on the plus side, I am happy that my plight has reached some level within OFGEM . Read below.

Big Quotation Mark Top Left Dear Gav

I have been passed your query regarding your DIY solar project. Having had a look over your website it seems you are already aware of the issues you face with regard to claiming FIT payments. As you are aware, PV installations with a declared net capacity of 50kW or under must apply for the FIT through the MCS route. This involves applying directly to your chosen energy supplier. They will require the installation to have a corresponding valid MCS certificate. This certificate secures that the installation meets the requirements of the scheme (MCS qualified installer and MCS certified generating equipment and meters). Without such certification an installation cannot be FIT accredited.

The second part of your email regards meters running backwards. When domestic micro generation first became popular, some installations found that their meters ran in reverse when generating. This was not a planned effect but due to the simple manner in which the meter was designed. The design did not anticipate any generation, or flow of energy in the opposite direction. Modern meters do not flow backwards and it is not a scenario which is approved by energy supply companies.

It is possible for electricity supply companies to agree export payment contracts outside the FIT scheme. This is commonplace for larger installations (multi-megawatt) and are known as Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). Unfortunately I would anticipate it unlikely they would enter into a PPA for an installation with a capacity of a couple of kilowatts.

As identified on your website, your best option is to use as much of the energy you produce as possible.

Good luck with your project,

Tim (Surname Supplied) Big Quotation Mark Bottom Right

7th June 2012 - Letter from my Local MP

I've had a reply from my local MP!

I'm expecting a reply, but I doubt it'll be what I want to hear. But at least my issue has been heard by some higher authority.

Letter from MP Big Quotation Mark Top Left Dear Mr

Microgeneration Certification Scheme - Feed-In-Tariffs

Further to your recent email regarding your concerns about the above scheme.

I confirm I have written to the Department for Energy & Climate Change on your behalf concerning this issue and as soon as I receive their response I will let you know.

Yours sincerely.

Vernon Coaker MP Big Quotation Mark Bottom Right

21st June 2012 - Email from DECC in response to Vernon Coaker's letter above

I've had a reply from DECC.

It looks like I'm not going to get anywhere. The conclusion is - You won't get FiT payments for DIY Solar.

Big Quotation Mark Top Left Dear Mr Gavin,

Thank you for your email dated 30 May, regarding the Microgeneration Certificate Scheme (MCS) requirement for the Feed-in Tariffs (FITs) scheme. I have been asked to reply.

MCS has an important role to play in creating a sustainable industry for microgeneration technologies. It has been recognised, from experience in other countries that unsafe or poor quality installations can rapidly undermine both the sustainability of these industries and consumer confidence. Consumers have made it clear that third party certification is important to them, when purchasing these technologies, which are still largely unfamiliar in the UK.

Due to lack of familiarity, these technologies are prone to mis-selling, with some installers overpromising on energy outputs. So MCS requires an accurate estimate of the likely energy output of an installation and is supported by a mandatory consumer code of practice, which meets OFT level requirements.

MCS is a not for profit industry-led certification scheme, supported by a wide range of stakeholders operating in the microgeneration sector. Although there was financial support from central government during the schemes development phase, it is now operating on a self-financing basis. The scheme fees were agreed with industry and wider stakeholders and are aimed at meeting its administration costs with a view to reduce certification fees over time. Certification costs will vary depending on the circumstances of individual companies. We recommend that fee sheets from a range of certification bodies are closely examined by any installer seeking certification. The costs for MCS certification are comparable to the costs for equivalent schemes. Certification schemes are being developed in other EU members states, as a requirement under the EU Renewables Directive.

In July 2009, a consultation document was published on the proposed design of the FITs scheme, including the possible use of MCS, or equivalent schemes to MCS, as a condition of eligibility. The response to the consultation, published in February 2010, confirmed the link with MCS as it provides a level of consumer protection and gives assurances about the likely quality, durability and performance of installations. MCS has also been linked to the Low Carbon Buildings Programme (LCBP) and the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT). Given the establishment of the MCS as the only UKAS accredited EN45011 scheme and its use as the basis of existing Government support programmes, we decided that it would be beneficial to continue to use it for installations up to the capacity limit to which it applies (currently 50 kilowatts).

It is important to note the MCS is a certification mark. MCS, is a third party scheme based on, and referencing European and international agreed standards, where they exist. MCS certification bodies can recognise testing, already in place, which is considered equivalent to MCS. Certification bodies need to be UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) accredited to deliver MCS which is an EN45011 scheme to ensure that its standards are uniformly applied. EN45011 schemes can add costs, but they offer consumers routes for any complaints.

I hope that this is helpful.

Yours sincerely

Claire Adams

DECC Correspondence Unit
Big Quotation Mark Bottom Right

25th June 2012 - Letter from DECC in response to Vernon Coaker's letter above

I've had a letter reply from DECC.

Same conclusion as above.

Letter from DECC Big Quotation Mark Top Left
Gregory Barker MP
Minister of State
Department of Energy & Climate Change
3 Whitehall Place
London
SW1A 2AW

Vernon Coaker Esq MP
House of Commons
London
SW1A OAA

20 June 2012

Dear Vernon,

Thank you for your letter dated 7 June, enclosing correspondence from your constituent, Mr Gavin Nottingham who believes that he should be eligible for Feed-in Tariffs (FlTs) for solar PV by installing solar panels himself. rather than using a company accredited with the Microgeneration Certification Service (MCS).

I am sorry to disappoint Mr , but I am afraid that we have no plans to change the requirements on this: that is, that those wanting to receive FiTs need to have their system installed by a company accredited with the MCS.

The MCS is an internationally recognised quality assurance scheme which demonstrates to customers that a company they use is committed to meeting rigorous and tested standards. It was designed with input from installer and product representatives.

For more information Mr can visit the MOS website at:

Yours ever,

Big Quotation Mark Bottom Right






Next - The beginnings of my 'Solar Shed'!



Comments

Kyle Gordon - 15/01/2017 10:40:15
Assuming I were to buy a DIY kit that is MCS compliant, with a G83 inverter and grid tie, etc, and follow all the instructions correctly, would it be legal to connect it to the grid? I understand MCS certification is required to qualify for FITs, but I'm not interested in FITs. Is grid tie in legal without an MCS installer cert?

Damian Butterworth - 04/09/2016 14:56:18
I have a 2 kilowatt 24volt off grid system I made myself. 6 caravan batteries. 500 watt immersion. 3kilowatt off grid inverter. I made a separate ring mains and swoop the plugs over when the power is down. In summer it runs 24/7. Just starting to use an arduino to control some of the things. It only cost about 2000 in all. All off ebay

Tom - 26/03/2015 21:42:44
Hey all - turns out hydro schemes aren't covered by MCS. I'm thinking why not install a fit elligable diy hydro scheme then use whatever DIY system you want to pump water through the hydro scheme! Efficiency drops off but the fit becomes accessible. Anyone up for it?

Stephen - 25/01/2015 22:10:23
I've just set up a 2kw system G83-2 800 grid tie, not interested in FIT but would like to make it legal. Am thinking of setting up a DIY site for other like minded. If interested email stephenjdrew(at)hotmail.com

Alex - 07/09/2014 15:24:36
Hi Guys, has anyone became certified by any chance? live in london and would love register for fit for my diy solar

g smith - 17/06/2013 12:28:01
FiT's should be stopped because the rest of us are paying for this

Nick - 09/05/2013 11:01:04
Not heard from Ivan, is he still around? Anyone else interested in safe DIY grid tie set ups?

Nick - 07/05/2013 12:20:35
Hi - found this site through a search for grid tie systems on DIY installations. Well done everyone. Now going through same frustrations of red tape to help our planet! I'm qualified for electrical installations and so installed my own 1.25kW solar panel system going to a battery bank. Too much energy going to waste now on days like this so need a solution. Will contact Ivan...

Ivan - 04/05/2013 11:40:13
OOPS....mistyped the email address (missed the r off donar...the correct one is: sunna.donar@gmail.com (I will set up the incorrect one also to catch any mails sent there)

Ivan - 03/05/2013 09:15:31
I am particularly interested in the comment by Chris 14/04/2013 21:38:51. I would be interested in forming a company to do this. I have setup an email address sunna.dona@gmail.com to talk to anyone who has an interest in being involved. If you come across this site, then like myself you are at least half way to needing the services a company could offer. waiting to hear from you.

Chris - 14/04/2013 21:38:51
Looking into all solar as the old boiler is on the blink (the one that heats the water).. scouring the web for info... and came across these excellent posts by all, I am too really keen to investigate DIY and qualify for FIT. It seems we all have a real interest in solar in general and opening up the possibility for DIY certification checks. Why not think big, go the whole hog and set up a Solar company together!!!

Ricky G - 01/04/2013 09:39:25
Can't you get a group of people together to fund one person in getting the necessary qualifications to certify your panels and install. This would spread the cost and the larger the group the cheaper it would become.

ADMIN
- 21/03/2013 19:41:57
Alan- I'd love to hear how you get on. The more people to raise awareness, the better

Alan - 21/03/2013 16:23:02
What we need is MCS accredited assesors whoc can verify that a self-install system meets with the requirments for FITs and RHI - I plan on sending a letter to this effect to DECC and MCS - let see what comes back

ADMIN
- 13/03/2013 09:56:41
Martin - Not a bad idea. Would need some thought on costings. There would also be the issue of logistics (getting 'our' man to travel around the country). It may be a viable option though. When the sun starts to shine, and I'm more inclined get in the garden and finish this off, I may look at the FiT more seriously. Currently, I'm just doing this for the fun and challenge of building it!

Martin - 13/03/2013 09:12:45
How about starting a group of people who want to DIY install their own system and get them all to chip in to the cost of having one of them become registered. This person would then check the installation for an agreed fee.

John - 13/01/2013 21:08:44
Have built my own panels from scratch and wouldn't recommend it. Virtually just as cheap to get them off Ebay

ADub - 31/12/2012 23:48:18
The reason for the MCS is that it removes any onus on the government with regard H&S - they look clean for no cost; and of course, installation companies lobby government to protect their monopoly. This has been a growing tactic for the last 15-20 years across many disciplines. DIY can be seen to be taking money out of peeps pockets, yet we still have a high percentage of cowboys out there, most of us could out-perform most 'experts'. Best of luck with your campaign.

mike - 05/12/2012 22:53:45
you just need to get friendly with a MCS company - they will do it - for a fee - 200

ian - 16/09/2012 11:54:27
would love to do the same and build my own panels to keep the cost down as that is what its all about plus saving the planet!!

Jack - 22/06/2012 13:37:19
Bloody Government!

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