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Installer attitudes to low carbon heat and microgeneration: a barrier to market success?

To get to the bottom of heating installers’ awareness of and attitudes towards low carbon heat (including the sort of supplier propositions that have most appeal), Delta-ee’s Microgen Insight Service has just completed an in-depth programme of research with them. Our comprehensive, nationwide survey with 250 installers uncovers new insight into installer attitudes and experiences. Download the Whitepaper here.

Our findings revealed:

  • The key 3rd party assistance installers are looking for – from lead generation to aftersales support.

With more than 60% of conventional heating installers also interested in providing low carbon heat in the future, there is reason to be upbeat about market prospects. However to really drive engagement, installers require support from suppliers along the whole customer journey.

For many, the key challenge today is finding interested customers, and so are asking for support in lead generation as a priority. For others, it is more about feeling comfortable with those first few installs; with design and commissioning support, but also with aftersales.

Feedback also shows that installers believe the ability to provide customers with more financing options and longer product warranties will help them close the deal more often.

  • Awareness and appeal of the RHI is strong – but as we have learnt from the Green Deal, this won’t necessarily lead to high levels of installer engagement in the scheme.

Ultimately we don’t think that a lack of installer awareness should be a concern (even if they are not enthused by it: see “low-carbon at the coal face: what installers really think about the microgeneration sector”) – but, we do believe installer engagement could be a barrier to RHI uptake.

The survey provides reassurance that the majority of installers who should know about the RHI do know about it (over 2/3 of installers in our sample recognised the RHI when prompted).

Although, we do caution that high awareness will not necessarily lead to installer engagement, and so converting interest to action could be a sticking point. Across the board, more respondents recognised the Green Deal than the RHI (Green Deal had 90% awareness). And yet, in spite of this, little more than 10% had actually become Green Deal certified.

With the Green Deal as the gateway to RHI support, there is a danger that if the installer is unable to guide customers through this process themselves (which our data tells us will be the base-case scenario) they could just resort to just recommending a conventional technology instead – a sale’s a sale.

Which leads us nicely onto our next point….

  • Training remains a major barrier for installers – the ‘qualifications burden’ needs to be reduced (or the system simplified) for wider engagement with low carbon heat.

Survey participants told us that training is one of the biggest barriers to engaging in renewable heat: almost 80% of installers in our sample listed it as a concern, and over half gave it as their single greatest concern.

With an increasing list of qualifications needed to provide an end-to-end customer service (which our research with owner-occupier indicates is a preferred option) – including: specific manufacturer product training, MCS, Green Deal accreditation and the MCS (all on top of maintaining any gas safe or other base qualifications) – then the challenge becomes clear.

All this falls on the backdrop of our survey revealing that less than half of all installers ‘qualified’ to install the 5 RHI-eligible technologies have undergone MCS training. 

  • There may be a supply chain delay when the RHI is launched – renewable heat is unlikely to ‘boom’ in the same way as Solar PV.

So what does all this ultimately mean for the industry? There is no doubt that the RHI is going to be an important market intervention. Ending years of uncertainty is a fantastic next step, and for customers and vendors alike it is something tangible to get excited about.

But, this research indicates that there is still plenty of work to be done by product suppliers, and DECC, to reassure and convince installers that they should invest in this market. Certainly the scheme needs to be “here and now”, rather than “on the way” for installers to really make a move.

For the customer who is looking to install renewable heat, there will likely be supply chain issues ahead. Even with the small market size today we have seen in our previous research that installer coverage can be patchy (see our blog “Is the UK low carbon heat market ready? A case study of a customer who CAN’T buy a heat pump”).

As the industry prepares for the launch of the RHI in the coming months, it is worth considering what the installer proposition – not just the customer proposition – for renewable heat will be.

For further information on any of the issues raised in this Whitepaper please contact Steven Ashurst at steven.ashurst@delta-ee.com.

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