More than 700+ dodgy solar installers have gone broke or out
of business since 2011 according to battery supplier LG Energy. This affects
some 650,000 homeowners from over two million installs. No industry should have
a 33% ‘orphan rate’.
LG Energy took the bold step of publishing the list of 700+ dodgy solar installers here, but that is cold comfort for those who cannot get warranty on often very dodgy systems. In NSW alone the solar regulator has declared that some 20% of installations have severe faults, and 60% have serious deficiencies.
Recently news.com.au stated one of the big problems with the solar scheme is that despite guidelines and accreditation, dodgy panels are coming in from overseas disguised as approved products, leading to potential fires and electrocution risks. It estimates that 25% of systems have serious, potential life-threatening faults. Kind of reminds you of KRudd’s pink batts insulation scheme all over again. How many have to die this time before the Government acts?
What are the main issues? Why are there 700+ dodgy solar installers avoiding obligations
According to Emberpulse MD Dom Gelonese (he does not sell solar instead an essential $500 Emberpulse energy monitoring and solar panel/battery health system) the dodgy installers face a perfect storm of issues. They sell cheap so-called ‘tier one’ panels (there is no such thing), low-cost inverters and have a lack of installation expertise. But they offer the bargain hunting Aussies a deal they find hard to refuse.
Then a tsunami of warranty claims starts coming in.
According to LG energy, there are
two issues with warranty claims.
First, under stringent Australian Company Law (ACL) warranty rules the installer you buy from is liable to fix it. If they are not in business, at best you may be able to get some parts warranty if you can track it back to the manufacturer, but labour to fix it will be at your cost. In any case the pedigree of the parts may be suspect including directly imported low-efficiency panels and inverters, many sold to you as brand names.
Second, when a cheaper panel or
an inverter fails inside the ‘generous’ [read unachievable] warranty period often
it is not an isolated issue. Faced with replacing thousands of dodgy panels or inverters
it is easier for those 700+ dodgy solar installers shut the doors. Or reopen as
a phoenix company and move forward free of the warranty liabilities (although
ASIC is attempting to stamp that practice out).
“Caveat Emptor” buyer beware says Gelonese. “I have been
nagging the regulators about this for years, yet the pain persists. The rebate
system is necessary to reduce grid load and help to achieve renewable energy
targets, but the implementation sucks. It does not pass the pub test. Rather it
focuses on producing statistics that support the politician’s renewable energy
Gelonese says the irony of the solar (STC) rebate system is
that the installer collects the rebate upon installation and it cannot be
clawed back when a system fails. “It still counts year-after-year towards
Australia’s renewable energy target, and it is ripping off millions of taxpayer
dollars every year. It would pass the pub test to charge the full price of solar
and pay the STC rebates to the owner over the system’s expected life – the same
end effect” he says.
It referred to Dr Michelle McCann runs one of the few
laboratories in Australia that conducts commercial testing for solar panels.
One of the worst-performing panels tested produced 12% less
electricity than its advertised rating. “[That] raises questions about
what that panel’s going to do after one year, or three or five years, let alone
25 years in the field,”
Dr McCann said some overseas manufacturers were sending
poor-quality solar products to Australia, knowing they would not be caught.
“Unfortunately [panel makers] know that we are not
really checking the quality of what is coming into Australia … and there are a
lot of [installation] companies out there … some of them are cutting corners to
make extra money.”
Dodgy panel installations are causing roof fires
In Victoria, the acting commander of Fire Investigation and
Analysis at Melbourne’s Metropolitan Fire Brigade, Steve Attard, says, “We know
of 25 fires in the Melbourne metropolitan area in the past five years that were
started by problems with rooftop solar.”
The regulator is not standing still
The Clean Energy Council (CEC), has the power to accredit rooftop solar products and installers. You can see accredited installers in your area here, but the list is fairly small – about 450 Australia wide.
Last year the CEC cancelled its accreditation of 12
installers and suspended the accreditation of 160 more. It also struck more
than 5,500 models of solar panel from its list of approved products, along with
88 models of solar inverter. Shocking – to use a bad pun.
But according to CEC chief executive Kane Thornton, “I
don’t think it’s up to the government to dictate exactly which product [or price]
an Australian consumer might prefer.” That is a very politically correct statement,
but it means you cannot protect a bargain hunter from themselves.
But State rules hamstring the regulator
The ABC 7.30 report found that some parts of Australia have
far more comprehensive checks than others.
Tasmania, ACT and Victoria: inspects every system.
Northern Territory: 295 rooftop solar systems in
the past 12 months (a statistical sample methodology that is likely skewed
Queensland: installers with a history of
substandard work receive audits.
New South Wales: a targeted compliance program
for solar installations is under development.
South Australia: Almost 33% of homes now have
rooftop solar, but it could not provide any information to 7.30.
South-west WA: State-owned Western Power is
responsible for rooftop solar inspections, almost 10,000 checks in the past 18
Rural and remote WA: Horizon Power failed to
confirm whether it runs an inspections regime independently of the CER and failed
to provide information to 7.30.
The Clean Energy Regulator (CER) that administers Australia’s renewable energy target said it is required by law to inspect a statistically significant number of rooftop solar systems (about 5,500) over two years. That is a sick joke – a bit like asking the fox to mind the chickens!
And don’t even start on batteries
Fortunately, only about 60,000 batteries have so-far been
fitted to the two million solar panel installations by 950 CEC accredited installers.
CEC says that there is no agreed Australian standard (there may be State standards,
and it is working on an Australian one).
The National Audit Office found some of the risks of cheap
or poorly installed batteries include electric shock, gas explosion, fire, and
But more importantly, the payback argument used for solar
panels is not so applicable to batteries.
According to Gelonese batteries vary
in cost – the cheaper ones (with shorter life and recharge cycles) may cost
$800 per kWh to the best at $2,000 per kWh. That 10kWh battery that ranges in
price from $8,000 to $20,000 – can take up to 20 years to deliver a positive
ROI. Catch 22 – the battery usually lasts up to 10-15 years – this is not
cost-effective and no amount of sales person’s hyperbole – OK bullshit –
can disguise that.
He also warns about the managed battery schemes where you pay a fixed price for power each month. “I know I am using strong words, but the last company you should sell your power to is the energy retailer or the battery maker that takes control of your battery. Those schemes are fraught with often impossible to meet conditions and hidden charges. For example,
“You agree to allow us and our service providers access and
control of your battery, at our complete discretion and as we deem necessary.”
GadgetGuy’s take –700+ dodgy solar installers is a farce that needs fixing – fast
The more I investigate solar and battery power, the more I think
it’s a sick joke imposed on us by bureaucrats to meet theoretical renewable energy
targets. And let’s not get started on our artificially high energy prices
either. The whole energy supply issue is a mess.
Now you have made it this far and are scared about solar you
can read GadgetGuy’s other articles about #Stop the energy rip-off.