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.
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 targets”.
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.
According to the ABC 7.30 Report, Australia’s obsession with cheap solar is derailing the market with shoddy systems lasting only a few years instead of the ‘performance’ warranty of 25 years.
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.