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Solar PV panel installation training – what you need to know 

Two men carry a solar panel up onto a tiled roof ready to fix it onto attachments.

The high cost of energy is prompting more households and businesses to look at installing solar panel systems to reduce their energy bills. As an electrician, expanding your offering of renewable energy services can open up this growing market. In this post, we’ll break down what training you need, why it matters for your business and customers, and how to get certified.

MCS certification for solar PV installation

If you want to install solar PV panels in the UK, MCS accreditation should be on your radar. MCS, which stands for Microgeneration Certification Scheme, is an industry-standard for renewable energy products and installers in the UK. While not legally required, MCS certification shows customers that you follow best practices and high safety standards.

What is MCS certification?

MCS registers solar installers, products, and installations. Issued by MCS licensed organisations after completing a certified training program, MCS ensures you have been taught how to install Solar PV systems properly and have demonstrated competency in applying critical skills when directly observed. 

Essentially, MCS certification proves your ability to recognise and use MCS-approved products and your installation methods meet stringent UK industry standards. This stamp of approval is crucial when marketing to potential solar customers.

What solar certification courses are available and how much do they cost?

It is essential that anyone wanting to become a solar PV installer has relevant electrical qualifications before undergoing any training to upskill to allow them to install PV systems. Currently, there are a few national training organisations running MCS-approved courses such as:

BPEC Solar PV Course – A 5-day, £608 course focused on the design, installation, setup, troubleshooting and maintenance of solar systems up to 50kWp.

NICEIC Solar PV Installer – A 4-day, £625 intensive course covering solar theory, practical installation, regulations, inspection and testing.

Level 3 Solar PV Installers – A 5-day, £725 course providing in-depth solar system training, including design, installation, maintenance and inspection.

Prices correct as of February 2024.

Before taking a solar specialisation course, those new to electrical work usually need an appropriate electrical qualification, such as the Level 2 and 3 Diplomas in Electrical Installations and to be up to speed with the latest IET Wiring Regulations (18th edition).

Consider how much time you can dedicate to training alongside your existing workload. Some training providers offer flexible in-person, online, or blended classes. 

How to get MCS certification

To become MCS-certified you must:

·      Prove your competence by completing MCS-approved training

·      Have your company audited by an MCS scheme provider to confirm you meet MCS standards by an MCS scheme provider

·      Submit certification documentation and fees

Once approved, you can use the MCS logo and get listed in the MCS installer database.

Why get MCS certified?

While not required by law, MCS certification provides major benefits for installers and your customers:

Route to Smart Export Guarantee

The Government has confirmed MCS as a route through which homeowners can access the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) which is a payment from energy suppliers per kWh of excess energy exported back to the grid. To be eligible, installations up to and including 50kW in size need to use MCS-certified products, fitted by an MCS-certified installer. Some energy providers will allow access to their SEG without the need to become MCS approved, however, the same standards still apply. 

Insurance

MCS certification satisfies many insurance company requirements for renewable installations. MCS cannot be given retrospectively, so not having MCS at the point of design and installation, may cause issues for your customers when they come to insure their homes.

Compliance with building regulations and planning permissions

If you’re doing work involving Building Control regulations or National House Building Council standards (NHBC), they will ask for an MCS certificate to demonstrate quality assurance. Many planning authorities also require an MCS certificate. Installers need to be registered on a Competent Persons Scheme. MCS is the only scheme to prove competence when installing renewables.

Provides consumer protections through trading standards

As an MCS-approved contractor, your membership of the Renewable Energy Consumer Code (RECC), The Home Insulation & Energy Systems Contractors Scheme (HIES) or the Glass and Glazing Federation (GGF) ensures your customers are protected by a Trading Standards Institute (TSI) Approved Code of Practice.

Market yourself as an approved, reputable solar installer

Once certified, you can reassure your potential customers that you are part of a nationally recognised, quality assurance scheme. You can use the MCS Quality Mark logo on your van, website and marketing materials. And you can get a listing on the MCS database – making you more visible to customers looking for an approved, reputable installer.

In short, by getting MCS approved, you show customers your commitment to top-notch quality and safety.

After training

Staying up to date on the latest solar products, regulations and installation best practices is critical.

What’s the market for solar panel installation in the UK?

There was a real boom in solar PV installations in 2023. According to figures from MCS, there were 183,022 certified solar PV installations across the UK. That’s one-third more than the number of installations in the previous year.

The number of contractors is increasing too. At the end of 2022, MCS had fewer than 2,000 solar PV contractors – now, they have over 3,300.

Solar Energy UK estimates that the UK will need up to 60,000 people working in the solar industry by the mid-2030s to help businesses and homeowners generate electricity, reduce energy bills, and decrease their carbon footprint. 

Find out more

Are you ready to add renewable installation to your toolbox? Our dedicated Renewables team is your go-to for advice, training, specification and technical support. Explore the possibilities at cef.co.uk/renewables or ask in your local branch.