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UK grants rules opened today to safer solar water heating systems

Filed under: Latest News

Watch the video here! 27/10/09 Good news! Solar water heating systems such as Solartwin’s which comply with UK Legionella safety guidelines on hot water storage published by the UK’s Health and Safety Executive will soon be eligible for grant aid throughout UK following amendments to the first one of UK’s half dozen regulatory documents which, bizarrely recommend breaking HSE legionella safety guidance over safer approaches such as Solartwin’s.

This historic decision was taken by the forward-looking Microgeneration Certification Scheme’s Steering Committee in an underground Westminster meeting room today. The decision followed rancorous opposition from senior players in the solar industry who ruthlessly wanted to cover up the Legionella safety issue which is blighting the reputation of several existing major solar suppliers in UK. This tacky cover up attempt even extended to circulating an incorrect “for information” propaganda document just before the meeting containing false claims of 50% worse performance.

“Despite submitting this paper the darling of the old solar brigade, Dr Chris Laughton failed to attend the meeting and I had to rebut his ludicrously fraudulent conclusions”, said Barry Johnston, Managing Director of Solar Twin Ltd.

Technically speaking, Solartwin’s safer approach of always complying with HSE Legionella guidance L8 (by heating daily to the base of a hot water cylinder) is now acceptable to the UK solar water heating grant gateway called Microgeneration Certification Scheme document MIS 3001. This decision finally took place today – after a tactical delay of 3 months had been implemented – to the dismay of customers of several affected suppliers.

Barry Johnston reports on the meeting and its consequences:

“I attended the MCS Steering Group meeting to deliver a presentation today, for 10 minutes and only for the purposes of speaking on the subject. Secrecy is   vital to how MCS operates so I was not allowed to receive the names of those I was speaking to, nor to be part of the subsequent debate. So I just popped in and out of the meeting and said my bit, with only my own identity being disclosed.

“At the meeting I said we have been installing solar water heating systems safely for 10 years and that what we do delivers superior costs-benefits, plus quicker installations than most. Also that if the government can “mainstream” innovations like ours, that this will help them to deliver their target of 7 million solar heated homes by 2020 (a 70 fold increase!). I then refuted an solar performance paper which had been circulated to MCS. It was written by Dr Chris Laughton, an internationally renowned solar expert and BSI solar heating committee chairman on behalf of the Institute of Domestic Heating & Environmental Engineers Renewable Energy Group (an influential group which a colleague of mine has asked to join three times, each time without success). This paper drew flawed (and negative) conclusions on performance of L8 compliant systems, conclusions which even my 10 year old son, when I spoke with him about this paper at the weekend, could see through as being based on a false premise. The “hit and run” tactic is a favourite of Dr Laughton whose use of anarchist tactics such as anonymous or covert sabotage is long standing (and is even documented in the academic press).

“The acceptance vote, although very welcome, is rumoured to have been worryingly narrow, with many abstentions. (I hope I am not risking imprisonment for breaching any secrecy rules by reporting this rumour.) Heavyweights in the UK solar and hot water industry (such as STA and BEAMA) are expected to remain hostile to most solar heating innovations for some time. I am very grateful for the Micropower Council’s active role in seeking balance and helping to get a fair hearing for several affected smaller “retrofit solar heating” players including ourselves.

“There remain multiple regulatory hurdles ahead for solar and heat pump plumbers who take a rigorous approach to L8 compliance: many of UK’s main regulatory guidance documents remain largely or wholly out of compliance with HSE guidance. Expert evidence on Legionella from the Water Regulations Advisory Service also supports this view. But flaws are evident in several documents and these are effectively locked into the building regulations. Documents from the Energy Saving Trust, the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers and solar training material produced by the Solar Trade Association working with the British Plumbing Education Council are all involved. The rotten apple is that the author of the flawed performance document which I had to refute wrote them all too. The technical content of these reflects the exclusionary approach of certain dominant industry players, who can be hard to move. So a strategic approach for us might be to back off from promoting our technology by mentioning Legionella safety – even though this strategy would then keep the public in the dark and reduce consumer uptake of safer solutions. We are reflecting on our strategy.

“As for how long it will be before Solar Twin Ltd is actually able to offer grants for installing solar water heating systems is anybody’s guess. Getting flawed government rules changed is one thing. Getting a whole company formally accredited to those rules is quite another. We have already started the process but given the delays we have seen already, it may well take until 2010, by which time any grant funds may have run out. So we will be giving £400 discount in lieu of grant until our installer accreditation really happens.

“The irony remains that tomorrow those of our competitors who are already accredited under MCS will be able to fit our systems for grants, while we risk getting   gummed up with accreditation paperwork – unless someone in Government decides to speed things up.” Said Barry Johnston.

Update 6 November 2009. As agreed by the MCS Steering Group on the 27th October 2009 amendments have been made to section 4.4.3 of MIS 3001 the Solar Heating Microgeneration Installer Standard. The revised solar installations standard document is now available on the Microgeneration Certification Scheme website. Please click here to be directed to MCS document MIS 3001 Issue 1.6 Solar Heating 29 Oct 09.

Kind Regards

Did you really read all this? I hope this progress report is useful. There remains whole a lot more to do. Thank you for your interest!


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