British Gas has become the latest organisation to sign up to the UK’s main F-Gas register REFCOM as it seeks to keep pace with growing demand for heat pump installations.
The energy giant’s social housing subsidiary PH Jones maintains more than 195,000 homes across the UK. It supports 23 social housing providers, has carried out almost half a million service calls and installs more than 11,000 heating systems and 850 renewable projects annually.
A growing number of these installations now involve renewable systems with noticeable growth in heat pumps. It is actively recruiting to increase its team of skilled engineers and grow installation work backed up by ongoing expert service and maintenance.
With the social housing sector moving more quickly towards low and zero carbon targets than other parts of the residential market, British Gas said upskilling the PH Jones workforce was a priority.
“The industry is clearly suffering from an acute skills shortage, and it is crucial that large employers like us step up to address it,” said PH Jones director Matt Isherwood. “As well as bringing new engineers into the sector, we also need to upskill our existing workforce, particularly those already involved in boiler installations and other ‘traditional’ heating projects.
“They will be crucial to delivering high performing heat pump systems in line with the government’s ambitions, but the technology does require specialist skills. We recognise the importance of making sure everyone working for us is properly trained, accredited, and able to comply with legislation.
“That is why we were very keen to become REFCOM members as it is the best way to demonstrate our credentials and support higher standards across the sector,” he added.
The government has set the industry the challenge of installing 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028 – an almost ten-fold increase on current rates – and the Climate Change Committee believes 19 million will have to be installed to meet the country’s net zero carbon emissions target by 2050.
PH Jones already has 11 F-gas qualified engineers and a larger team specialising in its renewables work. The agreement it has signed with REFCOM will allow it to eventually register many more certified operatives in line with its plans to expand its workforce.
Founded in 1963, it now employs around 600 staff. Its social housing and facilities management business was acquired by British Gas in 2011. It received a ROSPA gold medal in 2019 following five successive years of receiving the prestigious health & safety initiative’s gold award.
REFCOM is celebrating 25 years of helping refrigeration and air conditioning companies demonstrate their business and technical credentials and promoting higher professional standards of refrigerant management. Originally set up as a voluntary scheme in 1996 by a group of contractors who wanted to demonstrate their commitment to high professional standards and responsible refrigerant handling, it became the mandatory register for compliance with the European F-Gas regulation in 2009.
It recently recorded its 7,000th company membership, which represents an estimated 90% of the total number of firms operating in the refrigeration and air conditioning sectors.
The UK continues to ‘mirror’ the F-Gas Regulation despite its departure from the EU, which means that all personnel carrying out installation, commissioning, decommissioning, repairing, maintenance, or servicing of stationary refrigeration, air-conditioning or heat pump equipment that contains or is designed to contain F-Gas refrigerants must hold the relevant designated qualifications.