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Offers free, impartial advice to help make people’s homes warmer and more fuel efficient.

First published:
13 March 2023
Last updated:
Man installing solar panel on roof.

Nest scheme boosting green energy skills

Those living in low-income households or deprived communities can also benefit from energy efficient improvements such as insulation or a new energy efficient boiler. Since 2011, the scheme has been managed by British Gas.

As well as helping to lower the cost of energy bills, the Nest scheme also supports Welsh Government’s commitments to reduce harmful carbon emissions into the natural environment.

In 2020 to 2021, the Welsh Government provided funding of £20.1 million to deliver the Nest scheme, helping more than 4500 lower income households while almost 15,000 people accessed free advice.

Michelle Symonds is Community Engagement Manager of the Nest scheme:

"Net zero has always been on our agenda. It goes hand-in-hand with everything we do. If we make a home more energy efficient so that bills are lowered, our carbon emissions are also reduced.

"Every installation of an energy efficient boiler and every loft insulation helps our environment."

But over the last 12 months, the Nest scheme has overseen a significant increase in the number of solar panels being installed. With funding now available from the Welsh Government, this has seen a big shift and requires a behavioural change from customers too.

Michelle says:

"We need to keep getting the message across about how to use energy efficiently. It’s not just about what you install in a home, it’s about how you use it. We’re encouraging people to use energy during the day when the sun’s shining.

"We’re also looking into whether battery storage is viable, which would help those who are not at home during the day to use the energy they’ve generated rather than it being sent back to the grid."

While Nest is managed by British Gas, the home improvements are made by a network of SME contractors across Wales. That network currently consists of 35 SMEs. Michelle says the aspiration to become net zero in Wales is set to have a big impact on the industry:

"We asked our contractors whether they had the skills to install solar panels and we discovered a big demand for upskilling in this area. We’ve since been able to allocate funding so that the SME contractors can grow their expertise which will be vital going forward."

The Welsh Government scheme encourages contractors to take on apprentices and between April 2018 and March 2023, it will have invested more than £200,000 in apprenticeships and training while £10,500 has been set aside to upskill SMEs in solar Photovoltaic (PV) installation.

"Green energy skills are going to become ever more important. I’m not sure we’ve really seen the impact of that yet, but we are on the brink and I think we’ll see jobs in the sector changing as a result."

Victoria Deakin is Director of Ivor Cook Ltd in Newport which is a contractor to the Nest scheme. She believes Wales' aspiration to be net zero by 2030 is having a significant impact on the sector:

"It's a really exciting time to join the industry with the new technologies being installed. We've seen a huge increase in the volume of work installing solar panels over the last two years. The Nest scheme has been fantastic with homes benefitting from A-rated boilers as well as solar panels. And as residents benefit, the skills within the sector are evolving as new technology comes on board."

The SME contractors can choose training courses to suit their employees and their location. Ivor Cook Ltd has sent its two engineers to the Gas Assessment & Training Centre to complete a three-day BPEC qualification in solar PV installation and testing.

And supporting change and innovative thinking from the workforce of the future, the Nest scheme launched a schools’ competition called Cre8 to increase young people’s engagement with STEM subjects.

Michelle adds:

We take a cohort of Year 9s and ask them to design and create an energy efficient product. The winners go on to a regional round where they pitch their products. They are then supported by local businesses who work with the students to tweak their designs. Some of the solutions have been absolutely incredible.

I believe we have a bigger role to play in how we raise aspirations and boost young people’s confidence because they are the designers and creators of the future.

For more information about recruiting an apprentice, visit our apprenticeships website or call 03000 603 000.