Solar buyers beware

Energex and Ergon have been flooded with over 100,000 applications to connect to the electricity grid after the Queensland Government shortened the eligibility for fixed-rate tariffs for solar panels, resulting in fears that some elements of the solar industry may either collapse or not cope with the demand.
Solar industry expert Scott Andrews from Green Initiatives has grave concerns that it may become a repeat of last year where several solar businesses collapsed leaving consumers being left out of pocket.
“Over 200,000 Queensland households installed solar systems over the past four years and now we have half that number of households expecting to be installed in a quarter of the time,” said Mr Andrews.
“There simply isn’t enough quality stock of solar panels in Australia to deal with that level of demand, and many solar companies chose to conduct cheap pricing tactics to sign people up with potentially no hope of servicing those agreements.”
The Queensland Government set a cut off date for registrations to be eligible for a feed-in tariff of .44c per kilowatt hour, after which the feed-in tariff dropped down to .08c per kilowatt hour.
The rush to register and capitalise on the ability to earn money from solar panels created a significant volume of what had previously been thoroughly checked but now ‘rubber-stamped’ approvals by both Energex and Ergon.
The industry may also not have the capacity to install all these systems by the one-year deadline due to a variety of factors including weather, availability of stock in Australia and most importantly, the availability of skilled labour to do solar installations.
Also, due to the high volumes of applications that were rubber-stamped in such a short period, the risk of overloading the grid in any one area is high and potential reviews may see some miss out.
“Solar consumers need to know that there is going to be a bottle neck and they need to question their current solar supplier and change suppliers if necessary,” said Mr Andrews.
“Their application for the higher tariff certainly does not lock them in to any one solar company and does allow them to change, contrary to misleading information out there.”
“Solar customers need to do their homework and ensure that they have chosen a reputable company, that will be around for warranty and service after the solar ‘gold rush’ has passed.”
“Our buyer beware message has been prompted by a genuine concern for consumers and a disappointment that some elements of the industry bring trustworthy solar businesses into disrepute.”
“Many people don’t trust solar companies, and sometimes we feel like we have a worse reputation than a snake-oil salesman, when in fact what we do is highly technical and saves people money.”
Consumers are being urged to question their solar suppliers and actively protect themselves.