Canberra suffered a bigger drop than most other states – even NSW – because it went from one extreme to another. It offered a 45.7c gross feed in tariff up until May 2010 and locked that in for 20 years. Then it dropped that, but offered a net feed tariff. While a net feed tariff is actually quite good (especially because they pay for exported power at the same rate…), ACT has very inexpensive power…so it is currently under 20c per kWh for most residences. This is in comparison to 22-25c for most residents in Sydney… or up to 44c per kWh on some Sydney ‘peak’ tariffs. Or around 26-30c for country NSW areas. So, the solar systems in Canberra went from offering a nice healthy 15-20% ROI, to a sub 10% ROI.
What this meant was that all the companies who had flooded in to sell to Canberra, exited just as quickly leaving a hole. This translated to all kinds of service issues and upset customers.
Solar customers left high and dry
01 Jan, 2012 04:00 AM
SERIOUS unresolved complaints continue to blight Canberra’s heavily subsidised solar industry.
The ACT Office of Regulatory Services has 41 unresolved matters, of which 17 relate to one company, Solar Free. Consumer Voice continues to receive new complaints every week or two, the vast majority of which relate to Solar Free.
Calls over the past six weeks to the company, which has closed its Canberra office, have not been returned. Most outstanding complaints about this and other companies are from people who have paid substantially or in full for photovoltaic systems which have been installed but which have failed the regulator’s inspections. In most cases, customers, and Consumer Voice, have been unable to get any indication from the installers when defects will be remedied.
A Giralang couple has nothing to show for the almost $3000 paid to Solar Free in April for a solar system.
In its confirmation of the order, Solar Free said, ”We are delighted to be able to provide you with an affordable, sustainable and high quality solar energy solution.”
Mrs H said she had paid Solar Free to supply systems to each of her two children. Both had been supplied but hers had not.
A Fadden man told Consumer Voice he had paid Solar Free about $10,000 for a system installed in March. It had twice failed its electrical inspection and he could no longer contact the company.
A Duffy couple who paid about $10,000 to Green Tiger Energy for an installation in May are still waiting for the company to arrange for its first inspection. Consumer Voice wrote to Green Tiger in November and has had no reply.
Also with nothing to show for a deposit for a photovoltaic system is a Monash couple who paid Cleaner Energy almost $2000 in May. The Queensland company says on its website, ”Choosing only the world’s finest quality products and services, we stand by with a guarantee on our products for up to 25 years.”
When seeking to recover their deposit, the couple was told their contract had been sold to another business, NEPV Solar. In a letter to Cleaner Energy, Consumer Voice asked if the couple’s deposit would be refunded and how many other unfulfilled contracts Cleaner Energy had in the ACT and surrounding region. No reply has been received from the company or its director, who lives in Victoria.
Australian Securities and Investments Commission records show Cleaner Energy is a registered company but on December 9 the commission received a notification of application for a winding up order against this company.
As recently reported by The Canberra Times, about 80 per cent of recent solar installations have failed the regulator’s inspections, some for a second and even third time. Until approved they cannot be used, meaning people cannot derive promised income from their systems.
Though the Federal Government requires installers to be accredited by the Clean Energy Council, a spokesman for the ACT’s Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate said the installation of photovoltaic arrays had identified gaps in the underlying knowledge and skills in this area. Nine installers’ licences had been cancelled this year.
A spokeswoman for the ACT Office of Regulatory Services said it had passed on information about the high failure rate to the Clean Energy Council through the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator. The spokeswoman said her office was unable to comment on the value of the council’s accreditation of installers.
She said that of the 41 unresolved formal complaints about installers, 17 related to Solar Free. The remainder related to 17 separate photovoltaic equipment supply companies.
Consumer Voice investigates genuine matters of concern. Name and address required. Contact Graham Downie on phone 62802206, email email@example.com u or write to PO Box 7155 CBC ACT 2610.