Improving the qualification of installers is a target which has been a hot topic around Italy for five years now. All stakeholders in the business agree on the objective of plumber qualification, but there are very different opinions inside and outside of the industry on how to go about it. The government is constantly modifying the legislative framework with often confusing results for the installers. The associations criticise the legislation as inadequate and accept their crucial role in designing and organising voluntary training courses in cooperation with regional training bodies.
The latest legal addition is Law 90, which came into effect in August 2013 and has caused some irritation among the solar thermal community. According to this law, only experienced installers who have a vocational training certificate and have been employed for, at least, four consecutive years at a renewable energy installation company are obliged to attend the 80-hour training course, whereas installers without the certificate and the four years of working experience are exempt from this regulation. Both groups are required to take part in a 16-hour refresher course every three years.
The situation looked entirely different when the guideline based on Legislative Decree 28/2011 was adopted by the Conference of Italian Regions in January 2013:
- After August 1, 2013, the individual entrepreneur, the legal representative or the technical manager of an installation company who has a vocational training certificate and has, at least, been employed directly at a company in the sector for four consecutive years was obliged to take part in the 80-hour training course provided by the regions or through accredited bodies.
- Installers who obtained their qualification “onsite” over the years were no longer allowed to install or to have access to the required training courses.
The fact that the group of installers who, bar any certificate, had earned their qualification through onsite work over the years would no longer be allowed to install systems caused an uproar among sector professionals. At least this crucial issue has been solved by the introduction of Law 90, although the training course exemption for all those trained-on-the-job installers has been criticised again.
Some associations introduce voluntary certification and qualification schemes
All those who had hoped that Law 28 from 2011 would lead to an increasing number of qualified installers and to an added positive effect of helping spread renewable energy systems across Italy consider the current legislative framework to be wholly inadequate. Very few installers have to take part in one of the additional, special training courses. The mistakes made by the authorities have impelled the associations in the renewable energy sector to start playing a more active role. Several of them have pondered over which tools might be the best to ensure high-quality and appropriate training courses for installers, so as to cover new training needs, too (technological innovation, combined systems, etc.). The associations not only offer the required competencies and skills, but also the opportunity to involve the manufacturers of equipment and components. Thus, some associations are designing and implementing voluntary qualification schemes, in order to increase the quality and reliability of installed renewable energy systems and give greater assurances to end users.
One of these opportunities which should not be missed is the recent publication of Decree No. 102, which implements the requirements of EU Directive 2012/27/EU on energy efficiency. In fact, Art. 13 of Decree 102 stipulates the creation of a three-year programme managed by ENEA, the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development, in collaboration with the trade associations, the consumer associations and the regions. It is intended to disseminate crucial information and offer training in order to promote and facilitate the efficient use of energy by the end of this year.
This text was written by Valeria Verga, an expert in market analysis and legislation, communication and lobbying for the solar thermal sector.