SolarQuotes Vodcast Episode 9: The Approved Solar Retailer Edition

Round 9 of the SolarQuotes Vodcast, where Ronald and I address the worrying development of the CEC Approved Solar Retailer Scheme (ASR) becoming effectively mandatory in Victoria, plus other recent solar news.

0:34 Ronald argues that the Clean Energy Council (CEC) Approved Solar Retailer (ASR) Scheme is anti-consumer because in practice it provides no better protection than existing laws and regulations but will increase prices and reduce choice.

I argue that:

  1. The way the scheme has been sold to the industry and the wider public is fundamentally dishonest
  2. Australian Consumer Law is already brilliantly designed to protect consumers – we just need to get better at educating consumers on their rights and enforcing the law.
  3. The CEC ASR scheme doesn’t protect people from being charged rip-off prices.
  4. One of the most common problems with shonky retailers is they sell solar power systems that do not work properly. Australian Consumer Law protects against this.
  5. The CEC ASR scheme offers no protection from retailers inflating the financial returns of batteries. I have direct experience of this.
  6. The CEC’s overriding justification is that they are removing the bad solar retailers from the market. Unfortunately bad retailers have already found their way into the ASR scheme.
  7. For solar company owners operating in Victoria, the reality now is that the CEC have become judge, jury and executioner for your business.
  8. A mandatory ASR scheme will benefit the SolarQuotes® business but I still think its wrong on principle.

Some of these thoughts were also discussed in this earlier article when rumours were only ASRs would be able to install systems under the Victorian Solar Homes Package scheme. Those rumours unfortunately proved true.

14:34 Discussion of Tesla’s recent Model Y announcement, as well as the Australian release of two other competitors in the EV space, the Nissan Leaf and the Hyundai Kona EV.

19:16 New numbers released by the SA government show that the Home Battery Scheme (AKA $6000 SA Battery Rebate) is off to a slow start. At the current rate it will take 15 years to issue all the rebates.

21:34 The best and worst reviews of the week. Melbourne solar sparky Teaslec gets the gold medal and yours truly gets the wooden spoon. I get accused of having no qualifications and lying about working for the CSIRO.

26:32 – What the hell are ZNShine Solar panels? We discuss whether ‘Tier 1’ means anything, and why it is safest to buy a solar panel from a manufacturer with a proper Australian office.

29:38Panasonic N330E HIT AC solar panel availability announced. This panel has the best temperature performance we’ve ever seen and it comes with an Enphase IQ7 micro inverter pre-installed.

33:35 – The Desert Knowledge Australia Solar Centre: which panels are winning in 2019? Ronald explains which panels are doing well, and why Tindo were smart to use micro inverters. He also apologises for not covering how the individual panels for testing were selected. It appears that most of the panel manufacturers were allowed to select ‘golden’ panels for the desert testing.

About Finn Peacock

I'm a Chartered Electrical Engineer, Solar and Energy Efficiency nut, dad, and founder of SolarQuotes.com.au. My last "real job" was working for the CSIRO in their renewable energy division.

Comments

  1. Hello Finn, Just watched episode 9 and agree entirely about restrictions on installers creating higher prices without really protecting anyone. Here in NSW I keep receiving Google ads in my inbox for $3600. 6.6kw systems yet local installers with a good history are quoting 3-6K more (your 3 included). What really pisses me off is the total lack of transparency in the quotes, the only details being the manufacturers of panels and inverter, without any price breakdown, the only thing I have managed to glean an idea of is the cost of tilt stands which appear to be charged out around $900 to $1000, which seems expensive for what is probably a bunch of 30cm lengths of C section alloy.
    I have been telling the people quoting that what I want is not the rolls royce or mercedes of systems but the toyota of systems ie reliable, functional and capable but not luxurious or exciting, still 1 quote came in with LG panels and Fronius inverter for a price circa $12K, when I put it to him that this seemed more like a rolls than a toyota he justified the choice on the basis of longest warranties to provide the reliability I required, I have received an updated price guide from this company with a new “budget” option for $6K using Trina panels and Sungrow inverter with the caveat that the sungrow only has a 5 year warranty but since I know neither units price how can I evaluate this deal ? maybe I can buy 2-3-4 or more Sungrows for the price of 1 Fronius but that is information noone wants to share.
    I believe I should be able to buy the individual components for a solar system from retail or online suppliers and mount them in place before calling in a qualified electrician to connect them up, just as I would a new stove, only that way can I know what I am actually paying for and whether I am getting the best value for my money.

    • Fair points. Except the last one – that would be a disaster – trust me. The standards you have to comply with for even mounting inverters and panels correctly are very strict and voluminous. Also you need an accredited designer to ensure everything is compatible (this will likely change in the future when everything becomes more plug and play – but we are not in the future yet!)

      But in the installers’ defence – under Australian Consumer Law an installer has ultimate responsibility for warranty – so the good guys who fully intend to support you for the warranty period are rightly cautious about selling hardware that they are not 100% confident in.

      The approx retail price of a Sungrow 5kW inverter is: $1,120

      The approx retail price of a Fronius 5kW inverter is: $2,000

      Approx retail prices for panels are here:

      https://www.solarquotes.com.au/panels/comparison/compare-solar-panels/

  2. Hi Finn,
    I enjoyed your vodcast regarding CEC approved retailers.

    If you get a chance I would be interested in any thoughts or comments about the following as I am concerned about the situation that the small solar installation company that I use will now be in:

    They are just young blokes – mid 20’s. They do a great job and have been in the solar industry for 6 – 7 years. They are hard workers, honest and reliable but 90% of there work comes from retailers like me, both large and small.

    The way I understand this change is that they will now have to apply to be an approved retailer even though they are not doing any sales or marketing. Is that correct?

    The fee to be an approved retailer is $0.80 per KW of solar installed per year, which the installer will now be charged. The same fee applies to the retailer. So will the CEC get a fee from both parties? Are the companies expected to absorb this fee or should the consumer pay for it? If so should this be a line item in the invoice?

    Will there be an onus on the installer to check if the customer is applying for the SolarVic rebate and that the retailer is an accredited retailer?

    Any thoughts are appreciated

    Thanks
    Greg

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