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Solartwin exposes yet another Legionella safety cover-up by old solar heating interests.

Filed under: Latest News

UK solar thermal industry cover up of possible Legionnaire’s disease infection risk in twin coil solar cylinders, via Summitskills’ National Occupational Standards document, is about to be cleverly implemented via MCS adoption, who are DECC’s gateway to RHI and RHPP solar grants for hot water solar water heating systems.

I am not supposed to tell you any of this. Why? Because of the draconian secrecy clauses which cover disclosure of most goings-on at the UK’s Microgeneration Certification Scheme, a self-regulating construction industry quango linked to UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change, which decides which “green energy” technologies get state subsidy (and therefore which do not), and also how safely (or otherwise) they should be designed, operated and installed. However, I think this story is a matter of importance, so I hope I can be excused, in the circumstances, particularly circumstances of questions being asked (but not yet answered) about whether the massive solar thermal installation at the hotel in Calpe, Spain, played any part in the recent Legionnaire’s disease outbreak where three Britons recently died. I have to say that at this stage the hotel has only been identified as a common factor, and not as a cause.

Basically, here is yet another, dodgy regulatory document from UK’s notoriously opaque construction industry, about solar water heating, a document which, recklessly, makes no mention, whatever, of Legionella safety.

Summitskills Solar Thermal Legionella Safety Cover-up Exposed by Solartwin

In summary, it has been brought to my notice that the Microgeneration Certification Scheme may be about to formalise acceptance of a national “technical competency” document (presumably written by a solar industry stooge, but badged by Summitskills, who are tasked with writing down exactly what workers the UK construction industry need to know in order to be competent) which effectively sets in stone, for the purposes of allocating about £200M of state subsidy, what looks like less than best practice on Legionella.

My annotations in the document are in blue. Not all of them relate to Legionella. Some are related to a second issue, that of a potential market knockout stunt which we also hope to prevent by making this document public. However you will see some Legionella-related comments on pages 1, 3, 4, (6 indirectly regarding thermal stores), 9, 12, 14.

Our usual concerns about the long standing solar industry Legionella safety cover-up recur in this document. There is not only a total blind spot about Legionella but some apparent validation of higher risk twin coil cylinders, no reference to shunt pumps, nor to safer thermal stores, no reference to the HSE’s safety document on Legionellosis, L8 etc.

Meanwhile, we are trying to find out how this potentially dangerous and market limiting document got so far up the ladder to acceptance, however the hand-washing and buck-passing by the red tape brigade continues. We have asked:

  • What solar water heating industry expert / stooge wrote this junk in the first place? No reply.
  • Our main concern is how: did this person get away with writing such unsafe material?
  • Before they drafted it, did they have or declare any commercial interest in covering up on Legionella safety?
  • Who has the authority to change the document? How? We now know that apparently it might be possible to change it on 1 April.
  • Was it subject to secret or public consultation? Apparently secret, but we are not too sure about this.

We have sent a copy to the Health and Safety Executive and the Health Protection Agency, asking them to take a look if they have time, in the context of three people dying, apparently linked to a hotel in Spain which had solar water heating installed, where, however, the exact causes of the outbreak have not been disclosed.

For more on Solar thermal and Legionella:

As for the political context…

  • Will MCS and Summitskills back down? Will they agree to the safety (and competition) improvements which we have proposed?
  • Is the secrecy and opacity of MCS being used as a means to cover up 100,000 potentially legionella-defective state-subsidised solar thermal installations across UK?
  • Are those affected at the MCS solar thermal committee attempting other routes to cover up as well? This seems likely, if past conduct is anything to go by.
  • Did the players at MCS who stand face enormous “upgrade me please” bills declare a conflict of interest when they voted to support this dodgy document?
  • If these people did not declare a material conflict of interest, would such a non-declaration be a criminal matter? Will the Police or OFT bother to look?
  • Is a Legionella safety cover-up one of the real reasons why MCS threw me out of iheir solar thermal committee unlawfully, without supplying a way to appeal, 3 months ago?
  • How about the Building Research Establishment? They set up MCS. They were involved in the technicalities past solar thermal state subsidy schemes. Might they get sued?
  • Why does the REAL Code refuse to state whether or not solar thermal consumers can demand free upgrades from consumers? Is it a sleeping consumer watchdog?
  • DECC has just got a new Energy Minister, Ed Davey, is he just camping there before moving onwards, or will he really try to clean up governance in the energy industry?
  • In January 2012, I was told to pay £18,000 in order to “resource attendance” at one MCS committee, where currently more seats are empty than occupied. Should I pay up?

In retaliation for having brought the Legionella safety issues to the public’s attention several times of the past years, I have been ordered, with regular warnings and even some threats, by the Solar Trade Association, to keep quiet on Legionella. Watch out for black balls. Watch this space.

Watch what you install…


Written and published by -
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