SolarQuotes Vodcast Episode 29 – Powerwall Price Shenanigans

Finn and Ronald discuss the Tesla Powerwall 2 price drop in SA, Victoria’s solar rebate rollout, Chinese panels with a German-ish name and more.

Tesla Cuts Powerwall Price In SA $2,200, But..

1:06 – Coverage of Tesla slashing the cost of Powerwall 2 in South Australia was at times a little exuberant. Often overlooked was background on pricing and important fine print.

Back in October last year, Tesla raised the price of Powerwall in Australia by $2,750 – just before South Australia’s battery subsidy kicked in. Tesla then lowered the price by $650 in July and now there’s this announcement.

To qualify for the deal, South Australians will need to join the Energy Locals / Tesla Virtual Power Plant (VPP).

A South Australian Government news item states Tesla is offering South Australian customers a special rate of $3,499 for the Powerwall 2 (including SA subsidy), but doesn’t mention installation cost. Finn spoke to an installer on Friday morning who said South Australians are not going to get it fully installed for a total price of less than $7,000 – and that’s a simple install.

Tesla is claiming that’s going to pay for itself in five years … it’s not possible,” says Finn, who has a Tesla Powerwall 2.

Additionally:

“You get on a specific Energy Locals electricity tariff with this deal, and they’re comparing the usage rates with the default market offer. The default market offer in every state is a complete bloody rip off.”

Finn says the feed in tariff associated with the arrangement is rather ordinary, however there is no daily charge with the VPP offer.

However, Finn states if you want a Tesla Powerwall 2 and you’re happy with a ~10-year payback, it’s good deal and likely the cheapest you’ll be able to get a Powerwall for quite some time.

Ronald clarifies that a ten-year payback will only occur if conditions are right – prospective buyers should do their sums first. (Added note: Ronald is currently dissecting the deal, crunching some numbers and will publish an article shortly).

Finn also mentions he was on ABC Radio Adelaide on Friday morning to talk about the Powerwall 2 arrangement. Apparently South Australian Energy Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan was invited to participate in the discussion, but Finn requested ABC warn the Minister’s office that he will ask the Minister to justify a claimed five year payback. Minister van Holst Pellekaan was a no-show; but that may have been due to other commitments.

Victorian Solar Rebate Release (Take 2)

5:35 – Last Monday, the Victorian Government was to release 6,500 solar power rebates. Within about five minutes of release, the Solar Victoria portal was displaying the equivalent of the “blue screen of death”. The rollout was abandoned.

A second attempt at the release occurred on Thursday, which was successful – however, all the rebates were gone in around 38 minutes.

“People want solar. They couldn’t get it in the past because of the massive screw up,” says Ronald. “They all piled in to get it now and in two weeks time, when they’ll allow another lot to be available, they’ll be snapped up too.”

Finn says the problem is Solar Victoria and the Victorian Government have shown that they’re not interested in tweaking the scheme based on real world results. This is bad for buyers and bad for solar businesses.

“Imagine you’re a solar installer in Victoria, you’ve lost control of your sales cycle. You are not allowed to even take a deposit from them (solar buyers) without having permission from the Victorian government,” says Finn. “You get permission from the Victorian Government by queuing up at nine o’clock on a Monday morning or whenever it is, and hoping against hope that you’re going to get these rebates, which are harder to get than bloody Beatles Reunited concert tickets.”

Finn thinks demand is so high now not just due to backlog, but all the coverage the rebate has been getting (for better or for worse).

“People are thinking, what am I missing out on? They’re also thinking I’ve got to get in even quicker this time.”

He and Ronald both believe the high-level design of the scheme is still a shambles, but Finn’s been told Solar Victoria is not interested in any further changes.

Canberra’s Battery Subsidy

12:03 – Ronald isn’t impressed with the design of the ACT’s new battery subsidy.

“Why are you subsidising batteries now when they’re not an environmental benefit? They’re coming down rapidly in price. Electric cars are much more likely to reduce emissions at this point in time. So maybe you should be thinking about subsidising them.”

Ronald thinks the subsidy will only benefit some businesses and some pretty well off people who can afford to buy a battery system, which in the case of the latter won’t save them money. His other gripe with the scheme is it’s only available via three installers. This isn’t good for competition and it’s going to artificially keep prices high.

Tales From The Customer Frontline

14:49 – Ronald and Finn discuss a situation where SolarQuotes reader Rocco had solar installed and already had hot water on an off-peak tariff. After the solar power system installation, he was told by his electricity retailer (AGL) he couldn’t have a solar feed-in tariff and off-peak hot water (after being informed otherwise) – and was asked to choose between the two. AGL said this was due to rules from the network distributor, United Energy.

But Rocco didn’t stand for that. He went to the Energy Ombudsman, who forced AGL to find a solution. The solution was a solar diverter, supplied free of charge.

That wasn’t the end of the story.

“But then once we published this post, it turns out United Energy got a hold of us and said, “If AGL had asked, we would have told them that there is a plan that they can go on that will allow Rocco to have off-peak hot water under feed-in tariff”,” says Finn.

This type of confusion is unfortunately all too common.

“The electricity retailer, the company that’s selling you the electricity often don’t know the rules properly themselves. We see that all the time and call centers often give just plain wrong advice,” says Finn. “So double check everything the retailers tell you and don’t be afraid to take them to the Ombudsman.”

Amerisolar Panels De-listed By CEC (Again)

16:54 – Last week, the Clean Energy Council announced all models of Worldwide Energy and Manufacturing (Nantong) Co Ltd’s (Amerisolar) PV modules were to be de-listed from the Approved Products List on September 6 as a result of non-conformances identified in the latest round of CEC testing.

“.. these are some of the cheapest panels you can buy in Australia. They’ve already been de-listed once, they’ve been de-listed again,” says Finn.

His advice to consumers is to avoid these panels if they are re-listed.

Best And Worst Reviews Of The Week

18:10 – As selected by SQ team member Ned.

Worst review – a customer was “totally appalled” by the antics of a solar company (not an SQ client), which among the issues mentioned is alleged to have had the connection polarity of  the reviewer’s system reversed. It appears the installation was also rescheduled on a number of occasions and when it was finally installed, the customer had to collect a control box for the installer as the one supplied was defective.

Best review – a hat tip to All Green Environmental Solutions – in particular for knowledgeable sales staff, who tailored a system to suit the reviewer’s needs and budget.

Risen Energy Jäger Solar Panels

20:04 – Ronald questions the name chosen for Risen Energy’s newish panel that is now available in Australia, the Jäger.

“Anyway, jäger is German for hunter, which I don’t really see the connection for between hunting and solar panels. They’re hunting for solar photons maybe.”

While he hasn’t seen the panels yet, Finn suggests the name choice wasn’t a good move.

“Risen is a reputable tier one manufacturer, but this is a terrible name for a Chinese solar panel in Australia.”

It’s not that he’s suggesting there’s anything wrong with  Jäger solar panels, but the history of Chinese solar panels with German sounding names in Australia is not a good one as they’ve often been very cheap panels that haven’t stood the test of time.

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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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