The Solar Accreditation Scheme
The solar accreditation scheme is run by the Clean Energy Council (CEC). There are different levels of accreditation for different aspects of the solar industry. These three main accreditations are:
● Grid Connect Solar
● Battery on grid (hybrid)
● Off Grid, or Stand Alone Power Systems (SPS)
All compliant solar systems are eligible for a rebate. This is nationwide. This rebate is the Small Scale Technology Certificates STCs. In a nutshell, for every 1000W of solar you install on your roof you will get back about $500 (figures for 2020). This does not matter if it is on the grid or off the grid. It is a one off payment at the time of the installation.
One of the main requirements in order to get this rebate is that the installation is done by an accredited installer that holds the appropriate accreditation. Solar accreditation is given to individual people, not to companies. Many solar companies hire subcontractors to get around this. This results in a breakdown of continuity of quality for the customer. All the legal paperwork to sign off a solar installation is done by a person. Who was this person then? Who will it be next time? This is the person responsible for compliance and quality, not the salesperson in the fancy shirt, or the owner of a company who uses subcontractors for this role.
The installer will be the most knowledgeable about your installation. If they are a sub contractor you are unlikely to have access to them after the installation. As they do not need to take on the responsibility of after sales service, warranty support or simple advice, you might find it very hard after an installation to get this level of support. Often these companies will try and get someone (anyone) nearby to assist with rectification work.
Do Your Homework Before committing to have an installation done, ask the company some questions.
● Who is the person who holds the electrical licence? What is their licence number?
● Who is the person who holds the CEC accreditation? What is their accreditation number?
If you do not feel comfortable asking these questions you can visit the CEC website and have a look on the map for local installers cleanenergycouncil.org.au/consumers/buying-solar/find-an-installer
Here you will be able to view the installers in your local area. It will give their location, name and what accreditations they hold. Be aware that not all installers will be on this map. Installers have the option to not have their details published. To know for sure you will have to ring the Clean Energy Council on (03) 9929 4100 and they will help you with the information you need.
Before committing to a purchase ask the retailer what access will you have to this installer for technical help. This is especially important on an off grid or hybrid installation where there is quite a bit of setup and configuration. Changes may need to be made in future and who is the person that takes responsibility for this? If you are using a company where the owner has the required qualifications, you will be in a much better position & far more likely to be able to access this person in the future.
Initially I thought it was great to have my details on this site and customers will call me to quote on a solar system. After a couple of years on this site I would have had about 100 phone calls from solar retailers asking me to sub contract to them in the area I live and maybe 1 call from a prospective customer. What this did was illustrate to me the problems in the industry. It is my belief that the best person to give after sales service on a solar installation is the original installer. I would often get calls to visit a job to replace or set up an inverter only months after the installation. When I would ask the person on the phone why they didn't get the original installer to do it, they would tell me the reason is because the installer lives 300km away!
What to do if you have a solar system like this These days it is my policy never to sub contract for another company. I do not want to perpetuate the problems in the industry. I have made my own commitment to look after my customers and my installations no matter what it takes. I often help out people who are let down by these companies and can offer advice on how to deal with them. There are warranty implications for other people altering and making changes to an existing solar system. It is usually best to persevere with the existing company in order to get the service you are entitled to. The Clean Energy Council is here to help. The Office of Fair Trading will also help a consumer who is let down by a solar company. When it comes to an existing system I need to look at what issues it may have and what problems I may inherit after touching it. Personally I would not want any other installer touching one of my installations to make changes. I provide a warranty for my workmanship and take the responsibility of dealing with the manufacturers on behalf of the customer to ensure materials are also covered. If I also had an unknown person making changes I wouldn’t be too happy about it. The truth is in the industry the warranties are not worth too much at the bottom end of the market. These types only care about the sale and once it is done, that's the end of the deal. You may have one of these systems on your roof after you had bought a house, or you may have had a mistake some years ago and are stuck with it. A different installer can make repairs and replacements of the same type without needing to upgrade the system to current Australian standards. We can add monitoring onto existing systems such as Solar Analytics
solaranalytics.com/au It will be harder for us to chase warranties for a customer and this is the costly, time consuming part of the deal which should be done by the original retailer as it is Australian law.
Think carefully before you buy a solar system Like buying a car, much of the potential problems depend on the initial purchase decision. If you do buy a product that develops problems a big difference will be how the provider of that product rectifies the situation for you. Will this provider still be around in the future? Like many schemes in Australia, the solar rebate scheme does attract many undesirables to the industry and there is a long list of solar companies that have installed poor quality installations on Australian family homes. Since 2012 there have been more than 750 solar companies that have become bankrupt. These are companies, not individuals. There is a big gap in responsibility taken here. Who are the individuals behind the company you have chosen for your solar system? Will they be there to help you in the future?