New Energy Tech Consumer Code Seeking Submissions (And Boy, Does It Need Them!)

New Energy Tech Consumer Code

A number of bodies — as in organisations, not corpses 1 — are working to come up with a New Energy Tech Consumer Code that covers the sale of solar power and battery systems, and are seeking submissions.

I’m planning to submit all over that son-of-a-bitch, so if you’ve got any suggestions you’d like included; put them in the comments and if I like them I’ll add them in. Or you can do your own submission.  But either way you’ll have to hurry because because the closing date is the 22nd of May, which is 5 days away.  (Yes, I am so disorganized I couldn’t even get this out a week ahead.)

Thank god Finn pointed out I can make a submission because the New Energy Tech Consumer Code is pretty shithouse in its current form.  I’m not referring to the fact that it’s missing vital areas of consumer protection that need to be addressed.  That is definitely the case, but as long as this is fixed through the submission process that’s okay.  The trouble is, parts of what we have so far look like they were written by arseholes to justify being arseholes.

Clubhouse Cronyism

Who but an arsehole would write the following sentence:

good practice and consumer protection

The writer either does not understand or does not care that just because someone doesn’t sign a code of conduct does not mean they are not prepared to meet “good practice and consumer protection standards”.  All you can say is they haven’t fucking signed it.  They just may not be interested or maybe they think the New Energy Tech Consumer Code doesn’t go far enough in protecting consumers.

It’s not ethical to impute lousy motives to people just because they’re not interested in joining your club.  You don’t do it to people in your industry and you don’t do it to complete strangers.  To me it looks like they are planning to use the new code as a weapon against outsiders who don’t sign on, while working to obtain special benefits for insiders.  Unless the new code helps the industry as a whole — both those who sign onto the code and those who don’t, they shouldn’t even bother.

To this end, the New Energy Tech Consumer Code should make clear, right at top, that it is not ethical to discriminate against anyone for deciding not to sign and is against any legal, regulatory, or subsidy advantage that only applies only to members.  It should clearly state the only ethical reason for discriminating against an individual or company is their actual behavior.

The Code Needs Strong Consumer Protections

At the moment there are very basic things missing from the draft New Energy Tech Consumer Code that need to be included for adequate consumer protection.

I can’t see anything against blended payback, which is the dishonest practice of combining the positive return from a rooftop solar power system with the often negative return from a battery system2.  This is used to hide the fact batteries at current prices often only lose a household money.3  A code that doesn’t ban this practice isn’t worth a bucket of warm spit.  (Whether or not it is worth a bucket of cold spit on a hot day is something only you can decide.)

I also see nothing on keeping predictions of future electricity prices honest.  Without this, a shady installer4 can make up figures that will make a complete rip-off of a system look good.  I can’t even see anything in the draft code about measuring shade properly.

But what is most required are strong protections against people being ripped off by battery salespeople, as that is the new energy technology most often resulting in people losing their money.  Or in severe cases of dangerous shoddy work, losing their home; as batteries are a fire risk in the way solar power systems and other electrical devices are not.

Minimum 10 Year Warranties Across The Board

I’d like to add something positive, rather than just pointing out negatives, so I suggest moving towards a minimum of 10 years warranty across the board for all aspects of solar and battery installations.  For solar power systems that would be a minimum of 10 years warranty for solar panels, inverters, roof mounting hardware, cabling and other components, and workpersonship.

For batteries it would be 10 years for batteries, inverters, cabinets, control boxes, any other components and installation.

This gives purchasers 10 years peace of mind and makes payback calculations much simpler.  As long as they are sure they will come out ahead within 10 years they can be confident they are making a good investment.

I realise this will take time to work towards, but it’s not something that is extremely difficult.  There are installers doing it right now.

Please Put Suggestions In The Comments

There’s probably lots of things the New Energy Tech Consumer Code needs that I’ve overlooked.  But I’m afraid at the moment I am too furious to think straight.  I’m so out of sorts I only ate one block of chocolate for breakfast this morning.  So please add your thoughts to the comments.  Even if you think they are stupid, I’d like to see them.  After all, I think most of my ideas are stupid.  Which means I must be pretty smart, because I’m usually right about that.

Footnotes

  1. Although some of them are a bit whiffy.
  2. Finn and Jono even spent wasted half a day at a workshop – which was allegedly canvassing feedback on the New Energy Tech Consumer Code – asking for blended payback to be addressed.
  3. Even in South Australia with a hefty battery subsidy of up to $6,000 it is still easy for a battery to lose money.
  4. For example, one that installs panels under heavy shade.
About Ronald Brakels

Many years ago now, Ronald Brakels was born in Toowoomba. He first rose to international prominence when his township took up a collection to send him to Japan, which was the furthest they could manage with the money they raised. He became passionately interested in environmental matters upon his return to Australia when the local Mayor met him at the airport and explained it was far too dangerous for him to return to Toowoomba on account of climate change and mutant attack goats. Ronald then moved to a property in the Adelaide Hills where he now lives with his horse, Tonto 23.

Comments

  1. Kent Pomare says

    I think yield calculation should be signed off by a CEC accredited installer, and they carry liability.

  2. Reg Watson says

    Hmm…I’m not sure I agree with you completely here Ronald.

    Once this comes in and if I were looking for a good solar provider then I am probably going to start my list with those that have agreed to sign up to the Code. Then I will see if they are also on the Solar Quotes lists. After all they are presumably agreeing to abide by a set of minimum standards that will be more than reasonable to both the Government and Solar Quotes. Of course signing up in itself is not conclusive proof I am going to get a good provider and I still need to do my own research on the companies themselves and try to seek out reviews.

    But if a company doesn’t agree to signing up to the Gov’t list then they better have a damn good reason to show me why they didn’t. It is likely that unless alternatively they can produce excellent “references” from satisfied and genuine customers or some other high standard proof then they are unlikely to get my business. This puts a lot of onus and expense onto them to prove why I should use them if they don’t want to sign up.

    If I want to be a Solar Quotes recommended installer I would have to meet Finn’s standards before I am allowed on your trusted list. Isn’t this likely to be a similar deal ? You don’t say if you are not on our Solar Quotes list then you are probably “rubbish” but neither does the proposed code. Both of you
    leave consumers to make up their own minds about the installer’s absence from your lists.

    Out of interest to what extent is Solar Quotes legally liable if one of your recommended “quoters” should do a crap job or a runner with the customer’s cash ?

  3. This is a little off message but it is important to ensure that contractors adhere to safe working conditions and make sure their workers dont cut corners in the interest of getting the job done quicker. During our recent upgrade I was astounded to see a worker installing framing near the edge of my roof, 8 metres above a concrete driveway. He was wearing harness which was not attached to an anchor. Dumb, dumb, and dumber. I’m a great believer in Darwinism but I dont want anybody dying on my property.

  4. Geoff Miell says

    Ronald,

    You say warranties “For batteries it would be 10 years for batteries…”

    Isn’t the battery’s life dependent on a number of factors? Usage – rate of charging and discharging – partial discharge/charge vs full discharge/charge?
    Temperature?

    Isn’t Tesla’s Powerwall warranty subject to usage pattern?

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m suggesting that a blanket 10 year warranty for all batteries, no matter how you use them is perhaps beyond current capabilities of battery technologies.

    The other area of concern I have relates to getting a metered export connection to the grid (here in NSW). I’m unfamiliar with other states.

    My residential roof-mounted solar-PV system was installed in April 2015 (NSW Endeavour Energy network area). The installer then was certified (for Ausgrid, Endeavour, and Essential Energy network areas) to replace my single phase old spinning disc meter with two electronic ‘non-smart’ meters – one for electricity grid import & one for solar export. I was recompensed in my next electricity bill by my electricity retailer for my solar exports into the grid from the moment the system became operational.

    Since then, apparently the rules for residential solar-PV installations have changed (in NSW), apparently about 18 months ago.

    A colleague (in the NSW Essential Energy network area) recently had a residential solar-PV system installed in March 2019 (by the same installer I had employed – I recommended them). Apparently the installer is now not permitted to change/replace meters, but apparently did provide connection so that the solar-PV system can export excess electricity into the grid UNMETERED. The owners of newly installed PV systems apparently must now arrange for their electricity retailer to enable metered solar-PV exports. The few contractors certified to change the meters are backlogged, so it has been at least several weeks that my colleague has not been recompensed for electricity being exported into the grid. It seems the grid is gaining free electricity and the electricity retailers are benefiting.

    Why have the rules changed? IMO this is a major retrograde step. It appears bureaucracy has made it worse for new residential solar-PV installations.

    • Jack Watson says

      over and over and over again……… GO TO A STAND-ALONE SYSTEM…..and DON’T tell the bastards unless you want to be taxed for sunlight!

      Today the country votes for another herd of politicians ~ by the same people who can’t see the reality that if you walk around with your arse hanging out SOMEone (EVERYone?!) will do rude things to it.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      For batteries that would be 10 years typical household use. And it would be for lithium batteries. It shouldn’t necessarily be a requirement for other chemistries.

      The AEMC says meters should be replaced within 15 business days so it should be possible for your friend to request compensation if they’ve been made to wait longer than this.

      • Geoff Miell says

        Ronald,
        You say “AEMC says meters should be replaced within 15 business days”.

        My colleague tells me the solar-PV system was installed in early March 2019. The request form to change the meter was acknowledged one week later – why does it take that long? The meter still has not been changed – that’s more than 10 weeks from installation, and counting.

        The example given above is ‘anecdotal’ but a recent conversation with an installer suggests to me the problem is extensive – many meters are not being replaced “within 15 business days” because there are inadequate numbers of qualified contractors to accommodate meter replacement demand.

        My question remains: Why change the rules to the detriment of new solar-PV owners? What incentives (and penalties if non-compliant) are there for energy retailers to meet their “within 15 business days” obligations?

        How can new solar-PV system owners be fairly compensated if the exports to the grid are unmetered? Who decides what’s fair compensation? Surely, it’s better/fairer for everyone to get meters changed quickly, preferably on the same day of system installation completion? It seems to me the energy retailers are currently the winners here, particularly if solar-PV owners don’t assert their rights.

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