(Some) Solar Installers Still Behaving Badly: NSW And WA

Solar installer investigations

Several NSW solar sparkies have lost their licences and in WA, search warrants were executed last week in an investigation into potential solar STC fraud.

First to New South Wales, where NSW Fair Trading has cancelled the contractor licences of seven electricians.  The revocations occurred after investigations determined the electricians signed and submitted compliance certificates (CCEWs) for solar panel installations they had not carried out, supervised or inspected.

Six of the electricians weren’t even in the state on dates noted on the certificates. In one instance, the sparkie signed off 161 installs carried out across NSW while he was interstate.

“We are warning New South Wales consumers who are getting solar panels installed to check that the person on the roof attending to the wiring is a licensed electrician with the credentials required to work in this state and carry out solar panel installations,” said Fair Trading Commissioner Natasha Mann.

WA – Potential $1.5 Million Solar Fraud

Over to Western Australia now, where Australia’s Clean Energy Regulator (CER) executed search warrants at several residential and commercial premises connected to an as yet unnamed Perth-based solar industry business group last week.

The warrants were part of an investigation into allegedly false information being supplied regarding the installer and designer responsible for close to 500 solar power system installations. The installations in question represent approximately $1.5 million in Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs), the virtual bits of paper that form the basis of Australia’s solar rebate.

“The Clean Energy Regulator requires the very highest standards of compliance and integrity within its Small- scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) for the financial incentives given,” said General Manager of Compliance Piet Powell. “SRES eligibility requirements include complying with state and territory electrical regulatory requirements.”

If fraud is confirmed, the owners of these systems won’t have to repay the subsidy – the party/ies involved will be on the hook for that and more as STC fraud is treated very seriously. In March this year, multiple criminal charges were laid against an electrical company as a result of a Clean Energy Regulator investigation.

The CER says it does not have any direct evidence suggesting the installations part of the current investigation are either unsafe or substandard – at this stage.

WA – Consumer Protection Warning

On a related note, last week we reported WA’s Consumer Protection issued a warning about crap solar after an increase in complaints relating to performance claims, and component and installation quality. While complaint levels aren’t anywhere near those of a few years ago, there’s obviously still work to do in weeding out solar cowboys in the west (and elsewhere for that matter).

Incidents like these aren’t a good look for Australia’s home solar energy industry. But as in any trade there are competent, ethical players and downright scoundrels. To avoid the latter, do your due diligence before signing on the dotted line. That can be time-consuming, so take the SolarQuotes shortcut. Founder Finn Peacock carefully pre-vets solar installers able to provide quotes via the SQ service, and backs this with the SolarQuotes Good Installer Guarantee.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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