Three engineering trade bodies have welcomed the decision by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) to provide the funding needed to develop and deliver two new training courses for heat network engineers.
The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA), the Manufacturers of Equipment for Heat Networks Association (MEHNA) and the Thermal Insulation Contractors’ Association (TICA) will jointly develop the courses, which will be delivered through BESA’s training Academy.
The course content will be aligned with the CIBSE code of practice (CP1) for heat networks and the developing technical standards. The programme will include a one-hour introductory course and an installer course consisting of nine modules. The latter will conclude with a practical session delivered by manufacturers Worcester Bosch and Baxi at one of their six UK training centres.
The introductory course, which is aimed at built environment professionals interested in technologies that can play a part in delivering the UKs net zero ambitions, will be launched in October and delivered via the BESA Academy online platform.
The government funding will allow BESA to provide 800 fully funded places on the introductory course with a further 100 places available on the installer course, which is designed to upskill existing building services engineers and is due to launch in January 2024.
Heat networks, also known as district heating or district energy systems, are seen by the government as crucial to the decarbonisation of heating and hot water for communities, buildings, and industrial complexes.
Their centralised approach to generating heat reduces energy losses and they further minimise carbon emissions by making use of renewable energy sources including heat pumps and biomass boilers. They are also seen as one of the technologies needed to reduce pollution and improve urban air quality.
However, some of the systems installed in the UK have suffered from technical issues and disappointing performance prompting DESNZ to look for ways to improve design and installation standards and increase training across the sector.
As well as this training initiative, BESA has also developed a test regime for the Heat Interface Units (HIUs) which are used to distribute heat from networks to individual homes and commercial buildings, in a bid to improve the consumer experience.
“Heat networks will be an increasingly important element of the government’s net zero strategy,” said BESA’s director of training and skills Helen Yeulet. “It is therefore essential that the country has enough trained installers to ensure the technology achieves its full energy and cost saving potential.
“Networks will also play a key role in improving our energy security and in supporting wider use of heat pump, energy storage, and demand-side management technologies so we are delighted to have been chosen by the government to lead this project,” she added.
Ultimately, the three bodies intend for the installer course to kickstart the development of a formal heat network qualification that will, eventually, support planned regulation of the sector.
“We welcome the development of the heat network training programme and the collaboration that has made it possible,” said Chris Ridge, technical manager at TICA. “Thermal insulation of pipework is often an afterthought – and we simply cannot afford for this to be the case for secondary heat network installations.”
MEHNA director Steve McConnell added that creating a workforce of “sufficient size and skill” was fundamental to the country’s long-term net zero ambitions.
“We have already seen how a lack of skilled installers has suppressed the roll-out of other low-carbon technologies,” he added. “We need many more skilled professionals able to install and maintain highly effective heat networks across the country.
“I am delighted to see the government is committing funding towards training through recognised trade associations. It is essential we use this funding to unlock more talent, upskill workforces and assist industry to realistically decarbonise heating in buildings,” said McConnell.