Mr Richard Hanna, Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey
This paper arises from a doctoral thesis comparing the impact of alternative installer business models on the rate at which microgeneration is taken up in homes and installation standards across the UK. The paper will present the results of the first large-scale academic survey of businesses certified to install residential microgeneration. The aim is to systematically capture those characteristics which define the business model of each surveyed company, and relate these to the number, location and type of technologies that they install, and the quality of these installations.
The methodology comprised a pilot web survey of 235 certified installer businesses, which was carried out in June last year and achieved a response rate of 30%. Following optimisation of the design, the main web survey was emailed to over 2000 businesses between October and December 2011, with 317 valid responses received. The survey will be complemented during summer 2012 by semi-structured interviews with a representative sample of installers who completed the main survey.
The survey results are currently being analysed. The early results indicate an emerging and volatile market where solar PV, solar hot water and air source heat pumps are the dominant technologies. Three quarters of respondents are founders of their installer business, while only 22 businesses are owned by another company. Over half of the 317 businesses have five employees or less, while 166 businesses are no more than four years old. In addition, half of the businesses stated that 100% of their employees work on microgeneration-related activities. 85% of the surveyed companies have only one business location in the UK. A third of the businesses are based either in the South West or South East regions of England. Further analysis will indicate Pearson’s Chi-square correlations between, for instance: business size / age / focus on microgeneration and number of installations by technology; region of headquarters and region(s) of installations; and cluster analysis of frequency of marketing methods against frequency of enquiries received about residential installations.
The final conference paper will outline the full results of the survey combined with the outcomes from additional interviews with installers. It is expected that installer business models will be shown to be profoundly dependent on the levels and timing of support from the UK Feed-in Tariffs and Renewable Heat Incentive.