Following the ECA's warning that the Green Deal was at risk of "sleepwalking into obscurity", two new websites have been launched in an attempt to provide more information to homeowners and businesses alike on the Government's energy saving scheme.

Green Deal Directory is a database of both assessors and installers across the country, which users can search within a designated radius of their postcode or town. Meanwhile Green Deal Certified is offering a fast track approach to accreditation, providing would-be installers/assessors with a faster way of completing the necessary paperwork for official approval. By speeding up the process to offer energy saving services, this should give smaller businesses a much needed boost while also allowing more people access to these services.

Thomas Farquhar, sales manager of Green Deal Certified, said: "It was clear that the average potential supplier of Green Deal services simply found the accreditation process far too time consuming. They are busy people. Therefore, our service takes away the hassle and time problems and in effect allows these companies to take an 'express' path to accreditation."

While effort is finally being made to push the Green Deal into the public eye, are these measures coming too late? Yesterday Enact Energy Renewables, one of the first Green Deal providers, announced that it is in administration. Christopher Norman of Begbies Traynor business restructuring and insolvency advisors, who have been appointed as administrator, said: "The company has retained some of its employees to assist the administrators in conducting an orderly winding down of the company’s affairs. “We will now attempt to source a purchaser for some or all of the company’s business undertaking and assets."

Enact had recently signed a deal with the Residential Landlords Association to provide Green Deal upgrade work, with the target of doing 10,000 properties over the next five years valuing the contract at £100 million.

Publicity has always been an issue when it comes to the Green Deal - how can people be expected to take advantage of it when they aren't fully aware it even exists? The Green Deal Directory "About Us" page states that "The MCS & Green Deal Directory is advertised extensively on Google, Yahoo, MSN and through green publications & blogs. The MCS Accredited Installer Directory is also advertised in leading printed publications such as Grand Designs Magazine, Real Homes, Self Build & Design Magazine and Home Building & Renovating Magazine, and at world class exhibitions such as Ecobuild." However surely the people reading these are the ones already aware of the Green Deal?

The project is off to a good start, with official figures from the DECC showing the take up reached record numbers in March with almost 8,000 assessments completed and £68.9 million worth of contracts let through the eco brokerage scheme, but there's still a long way to go to meet the Governments proposed targets. Will these new websites make that much of a difference? Only time will tell.

The Green Deal is in danger of “sleepwalking into obscurity”, warns the ECA.

In response to the Energy and Climate Change Committee’s report into the Green Deal, the ECA has said that the findings should be a stark warning for the Government.

The ECA said, “The Energy and Climate Change Committee’s report into the Green Deal issued on 22nd May is a wake-up call to Government, which must keep on top of Green Deal performance if it is to prevent its flagship policy from sleepwalking into obscurity.”

Now the Green Deal is live, the Government must be quick to react to what is happening on the ground, and make changes if success is in doubt. Considering the PV FITs fiasco was worsened by the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) relying on outdated figures on solar installations, the DECC should be accessing real-time information on the Green Deal, right now.

Millions of homes and businesses could benefit from the Green Deal, but at the current rate of assessments it will take around 100 years to get round to them. The first figures on actual Green Deal installation work, which come out in June, will be crucial.

Depending on what these figures say, the DECC may need to be ready with a Plan B. That should include reducing interest rates, which are widely seen as uncompetitive. Even simple measures like making the early adopter loans more obvious to consumers could help.

Awareness of the Green Deal financial incentives is very sketchy; publicity of what people need to do to benefit from the scheme is non-existent. How can the ‘common man’ (or woman) take advantage of the scheme when they are not being provided with any information?

The government call this a "Flagship incentive" - I would call it propaganda.

- Mark Jenkins

The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) have recently released their first alterations to the 'TM13: Minimising the risk of Legionnaires' disease' guide in ten years. This comes following Britain experiencing its worst outbreaks of the disease to date, as well as in reaction to the advances in technology and environmental concern there are in managing water systems.

Legionella bacteria are commonly found in large sources of water such as rivers and lakes, but can very easily contaminate drinking water systems should it not be treated properly. If the bacteria are allowed to multiply and then become released into the air in water droplets, they become a serious health risk. Large buildings suchs as hotels, hospitals and office blocks, are particularly susceptible to contamination due to their more complex water supply systems.

It is aimed at primarily facility/premises managers, engineers, consultants or any other person involved in the design, installation or maintenance of building water systems. It sets to give out guidance on the appropriate design, installation, commissioning, operation and maintenance procedures necessary to minimise the risk of infection by Legionella from water systems within a building. Principles are highlighted, and practitioners in these fields are encouraged to apply them to their own particular building services applications.

This new guide also makes reference to health concerns on an international level, providing guidance on non-UK based requirements in the hope it will be a "valuable tool" in supporting compliance outside of the UK.

Speaking to HVP magazine, chairman for the new guide Greg Davies said: "The guidance has been revised and updated to reflect the legal, environmental and technological advancements we have seen over the last decade. The significant advantage of this document is it contains the level of advice needed to support those responsible for managing and maintaining water systems and services, for minimising the risks with legionella as well as how to demonstrate proactive control."

To purchase a copy of TM13, visit the CIBSE Knowledge Portal

Full story: Daily Mail - 'Incompetent' plumber causes gas explosion

A 32-year old plumber is currently in course after he caused a gas explosion which resulted in a home being 'blown from its foundations' and leaving the couple inside with serious burns.

While converting the former kitchen of Martyn Moody and his wife Theresa's luxury home in the Lincolnshire Wolds into a dining room, plumber Daniel Hickling cut off and capped the protruding gas pipe, burying it under the floorboards. However during the work he punctured the pipe and failed to carry out a straightforward check to ensure there had been no damage to it.

Later the couple smelt gas and began searching their home. During this time Mr Moody flicked on a cigarette lighter and the flame ignited, causing a massive explosion with such force that the entire building moved an inch. Mr Moody, a retired construction and electrical tradesman spent two weeks in hospital undergoing skin grafts after suffering serious burns to his hands, arms and scalp. His wife suffered burns to her legs and feet nut was released from hospital after two days.

The home, which the couple had built for themselves in 1993, sustained so much damaged that it had to be almost completely rebuilt. It was a year before the couple were able to move back in. They were also left £100,000 out of pocket after being found to be underinsured on their contents insurance and thus had to cover some of the loss themselves.

Lincoln Crown Court were told by prosecutor James Puzey that Hickley was "incompetent to carry out this work and it was carried out incompetently. That led directly to an explosion which almost destroyed the property and caused serious injury to the householders." It was also revealed that he was not a registered Gas Safe engineer and failed to tell the couple this when he agreed to do the work. However he claims that he did not know he would be working on a gas pipe and as such never put himself forward as properly qualified.

Hickley has admitted to breaching the 1998 Gas Safety Regulations and performing work to an inappropriate standard. Recorder Helen Malcolm QC has adjourned the case to a future date when she will give her ruling on the case following these two days of evidence.

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Cases like this are a prime example of why having the right qualifications to do the job is vital. Simply having plumbing qualifications is not enough if you are potentially going to work with gas pipes, as not only are you breaking the law and could potentially face prosecution but you are also endangering the lives of your customers. If you train as a gas engineer, becoming Gas Safe Registered isn't just advised, it is essential proof that you are legally competent to work with gas pipes and gas appliances safely. If you are a plumber and would like to learn more about gas engineering, gaining the qualifications required to be eligable for Gas Safe registration, we at Access Training offer comprehensive gas courses to ensure you are fully trained. To find out more click the link or give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

Just over a month after the announcement that the start of the Renewable Heat Incentive would be delayed until Spring 2014, the UK Government has also delayed the introduction of proposed "smart meters" to 30 million homes until Autumn 2015.

The £11.7 billion project has been considered vital to getting householders to cut their energy use as the country faces having to import more energy in the future. These smart meters record consumption of gas and electricity in hourly intervals, regularly communicating the information back to the utility provider for monitoring and billing purposes. While the project is set to start in 2015, its estimated that the move to install these into every home won't be completed until 2020.

Angela Knight, chief executive of Energy UK, noted that installing these meters is going to be a "complex task" and this delay will allow the changeover to happen more efficiently. She said: "We welcome the government's prudent decision to allow an additional 12 months to complete the smart meter programme. This recognises the scale of the programme and the need to prepare carefully."

Energy Secretary Ed Davey added: "Completing the national rollout will be an enormous logistical and technical challenge for the industry. Getting this right for consumers is the government's priority."

However the Government will be taking measures to speed up the introduction despite delays. From the end of 2013, when a customer switches from a supplier who has provided them with a smart meter, the new supplier has to either rent the previous supplier’s meter or install their own smart meter, helping to gradually phase out old equipment. This also makes sure that suppliers don’t lose out when they become early adopters. There are also proposals to require energy suppliers and network operators to comply with the Smart Energy Code and ensure their smart meters really perform their advanced functions and supply data to customers.

Further reading: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22480068

http://www.techweekeurope.co.uk/news/smart-meter-roll-out-delayed-until-autumn-2015-116011

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/70d66e86-b97b-11e2-bc57-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2TFaAEogR

Part P Changes

In 2013, the Government made important changes to Part P of the Building Regulations. These are the regulations that ensure that all fixed electrical installations in domestic dwellings are suitably designed, installed, inspected and tested to provide reasonable protection against becoming a source or fire or a cause of injury to persons.

These changes to the Part P of the Building Regulations consisted of two principel modifications, the first of which reduces the range of electrical installation work that needs to be notified. Previously, electrical work undertaken in kitchens (such as adding a new socket) or gardens (installing security lights) were among the work you'd need to be Part P qualified to perform without having to notify an inspector. However now these tasks will no longer be notifiable unless a new circuit is required.

There are three main areas where electrical work will still be notifiable due to Part P of the Building Regulations, and these are:

  • Any work involving the installation of a new circuit
  • The replacement of any consumer unit
  • Any addition or alteration to existing circuits in a special location
In this instance, "special location" can mean two things, the first of which is any room containing a swimming pool or sauna heater. Secondly, it is any room containing a bath or shower, where the space surrounding a bath tap or shower head extends vertically from the finished floor level to a height of 2.25m, or 2.25m from where the shower head is attached. This can also apply horizontally, where the bathtub or shower tray has a distance of 0.6m. Alternatively, where there is no bath tub or shower tray from the centre point of the shower head where it is attached to the wall or ceiling to a distance of 1.2m.
 
The second part of these changes to the Part P of the building regulations relates to the use of a registered third party to certify notifiable work. Previously, any electrician undertaking work that fell under Part P not registered with a competent persons' scheme was required to notify their local authority's building control. They would then send out an independent inspector who would determine if the work was acceptable.
 
However, these changes mean that electricians not registered with a competent persons' scheme have to get their work signed off by a registered third party. For more information, visit the official Government Part P document.
 
Are you looking to become Part P qualified? Not only will this enable you to register with a competent persons' scheme and allow you to self-certify your own work (saving you hundreds of pounds), but could also potentially provide you with a whole new area of work when the third party approval system is finalised. Here at Access Training we offer a wide range of electricial courses, including specific Part P Training. If you would like to find out more, give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

The Government has sparked more frustration from industry members as it announced yet another delay to the start of the long-awaited Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

The scheme, which was designed to encourage renewable heating systems to be installed in domestic properties and offer money towards those who have fitted renewable heating products, was meant to launch this Autumn but has now been pushed back until Spring 2014.

Greg Barker, the Energy and Climate Change Minister, said: "The RHI, which has been available for non-domestic investors for over a year, is a key part of our approach to cutting carbon and driving forward the move to more sustainable low carbon heating alternatives."

"We remain committed to introducing an incentive scheme for householders too, and have set out an updated timetable for its launch alongside new plans to extend our renewable heat voucher scheme in the meantime."

However this isn't enough for many leading industry members, who have vocally expressed their disappointment at the delay. Jim Moore, of leading heating and boiling manufacturers the Vaillant Group has said: "The Government now needs to deliver on its latest deadline to assist in stimulating increased uptake of renewables in the UK as has been demonstrated as effective in so many European markets."

Elsewhere, chief executive of the Micropower Council Dave Sowden has commented: "Taken with the delay in confirmed the next steps of the 'zero carbon homes' policy, the announcement is forcing the industry to question whether the Coalition is serious about promoting domestic renewable heat during this Parliament."

Coinciding with this announcement was also an action plan looking at the potential to cut emissions from heat across the whole of the UK economy. It focuses on a number of key actions in an attempt to spur on the move to low carbon heating alternatives and drive forward green growth. These include;

  • A £9 million package to help local authorities get heat network schemes up and running in towns and cities across the country, with a new Heat Networks Delivery Unit to sit within the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) providing expert advice.
  • £1 million for Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Sheffield and Nottingham to help them develop heat networks.
  • 100 green apprenticeships to be funded primarily for young people in small scale renewable technologies.
  • Up to £250,000 for a new first-come-first-served voucher scheme for heating installers to get money off the cost of renewable heating kit installation training, with up for £500 or 75% of the cost of the training per person.
  • Working with individual industrial sectors to design long-term pathways to cut carbon across UK industry.

It may be an apocryphal tale, but in the days of the Empire it is said that many passengers embarking for the tropics were persuaded to buy small packages labelled "Insect Destroyer", and further labelled with the instructions "do not open until required". When the packages were finally opened, it was discovered that they contained only two small blocks of wood and the instructions "Place the insect on one block and strike sharply with the other".

In these days of Consumer Protection and Trading Standards it might be hoped that this type of con is very much a thing of the past, but according to a report from the Electrical Safety Council, it is still very much with us. The latest manifestation is a range of "plug-in energy savers", normally sold over the internet pr at car boot sales.

These devices claim to save money on electricity bills by doing some kind of "conditioning" to the supply which makes appliances run more efficiently. This is nonsense. The Electrical Safety Council tested four different models, all of which actually increased power consumption rather than reducing it.

More worryingly, all the devices tested failed to meet basic product standards. In all cases the pin dimensions were not correct. This means that the device would be a loose fit in the socket-outlet, which would cause arcing and overheating. All the devices tested were also of poor internal construction, making them a fire hazard. Several of them were CE marked, but the poor quality of construction would suggest that these marks were almost certainly forgeries. 

There have been reports that these devices are also being sold over the phone. Many elderly people have been targeted by telephone sales calls purporting to originate with one of more of the energy suppliers. Often the caller has the persons' name and address, and on some occasions even part of their credit card number. These calls are bogus and originate overseas, many from a holding company in the USA.

If you should be offered one of these devices, Action Fraud (www.actionfraud.police.uk) would like to know. You can also contact them on 0300 123 2040.

- Mark Jenkins

An artist's impression of the new project

 

Plans for a new 800-home waterfront community in Cardiff Bay were given the go-ahead earlier this year, with the construction work set to begin later this year.

While the city has seen many large scale development projects over the last several years, including the International Sports Village in the Bay and the St David's 2 shopping centre in the city centre, this £250 million project - named Cardiff Pointe, will be one of the biggest developments to the city in recent years.

The project, considered to be "the missing piece in the International Sports Village (ISV) jigsaw", is made up of four linked applications to build a total of 798 homes on vacant land off of Ferry Road, Watkiss Way and Empire Way. The building work will be done in six phases, with the earliest construction focusing on town houses and maisonettes.

The largest scheme is for 561 homes, including 392 apartments and 169 houses, on the peninsular of land between Cardiff Bay Yacht Club and the International Swimming Pool. Later phases will include 18 five-badroom waterside "executive" houses and two landmark towers which will cantilever over the water. At the foot of the towers will be shops and community facilities, with the local health board already indicating that it would interested in opening a "satellite surgery".

The second site, which is currently used as a temporary car park for the swimming pool, will see 79 homes built - including 43 apartments and 36 houses. The third application is for 63 apartments on land behind the Morrisons supermarket on Ferry Road, while the fourth is for 95 apartments on land off of Watkiss Way. These will be a mixture of private and social housing.

Committee chairman councillor Michael Michael said: "Overall I welcome this scheme - hopefully it's a sign that the city is moving forward."

(Full Story and picture source)

Last week saw George Osborne announce his fourth annual Budget to the British public, and it didn't look good for green energy policy. The Chancellor's shunning of renewable energy methods in favour of "low cost energy sources" such as shale gas has sparked outrage from a number of environment-friendly movements, particularly the Green Party and Greenpeace.

Speaking on Twitter, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas noted that "not a single word" was made concerning renewable energy in the Budget. In a longer statement made for the party's website, she went on further to say:

"With the UK's green economy now worth over £120bn - 9% of GDP - providing nearly a million jobs and generating a third of our most recent economic growth according to the CBI, it is completely inexplicable that George Osborne keeps pretending it doesn't exist."

In contrast to this, the Chancellor said that "creating a low-carbon economy should be done in a way that creates jobs - not costs them", yet didn't specify exactly how this should be achieved. Instead he continued to encourage the development of shale gas in the UK, stating that the government would set up a tax allowance for fracking companies developing gas fields. Shale gas is already notably controversial due to its extraction method - it involves pumping water, sand and chemicals into deep wells at high pressure, creating fissures in shale rock releasing the trapped gas.

This tax incentive also came under fire from Lucas, who considered it "outrageous that the Government is willing to gift more tax breaks to companies drilling for hard to reach shale". She continued by calling the whole thing a "costly gamble that risks keeping the UK addicted to polluting fossil fuels at precisely the time we should be leaving them in the ground". Greenpeace campaigner Lawrence Carter added: "Bungs to the gas industry make it harder for Britain to meet its climate targets and stifle the low-carbon sector, which provided one-third of all UK growth in 2011-12."

Despite all the evidence, it seems shocking that such a strong and fast-growing sector in Britain has been forgotten.