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News : January 2020

Shining a light on the solar industry

 

Looking for a quick return is undermining quality and professionalism in the solar industry and will end up short-changing the consumers. As an industry, it’s time to educate people about the real value in solar system products, design and installation.

 

During 2007, data from the Clean Energy Regulator shows there were 779 solar generation units installed in NSW. Think of these small units as a typical home installation. In just a few short years, that number spiked in 2011 at 80,272. It was a great time to be in the solar industry: solar units were decent quality and their upfront cost was coming down, Government subsidies or bonus schemes were in place and customers could expect a decent feed-in tariff for their excess power.

 

This meant you could outlay a decent amount of cash on a sizeable system with a lifespan of up to 20 years and a payback period of five to seven years! Think about that – more than a decade of lower energy bills and money coming back into your pocket – all while feeling good about doing your bit for the environment by increasing your use of renewable energy. Needless to say, increased demand led to increasing supply as more and more products and installers flooded the market to get their share of a booming new sector of the electrical industry.

 

But as the market grew from niche to mass, so too did Government attempts to regulate the uptake of solar – both to ensure the reliability of the power grid and, arguably, to help protect large generators from going bust or hiking up their prices. Subsidies and bonus schemes were wound back, pushing up both the upfront system cost and extending the payback period. Basic economics kicked in and people became sensitive to price. In turn, price became the key differentiator for some in the market. Suppliers who could offer the customer expertise in engineering, offer high-quality products and back that up with first-rate installation were squeezed by those chasing a quick buck with lower prices.

 

Fast-forward to 2020 and we have a scenario where the average customer feels they have to be wary of the “cowboys” and “sharks” in the industry, and where the engineers, project managers, and tradespeople who are highly skilled solar PV specialists are left scratching their heads as to why choices around these technical and important pieces of infrastructure are based solely on price. Yet, a solar PV system is still a big investment that is part of a home or business for up to 30 years.

 

Yes, there are many industry players, including us at Kerfoot, who see solar PV as a critical component in a low-carbon energy future and take pride in the quality of our work and the products we use. From our perspective, it leaves open important questions about how we educate consumers about the importance of quality, in both choosing products and suppliers, as well as the impact when many of the inferior systems fail, well short of their expected lifespan.

 

We stand behind our work. For example, Kerfoot’s work at the Australian Maritime Museum involved the installation of 243.6 kW lightweight, best in class, first in Australia, solar panels.

 

You can learn more about how we’re tackling renewable energy projects at our website.

 

Sources:

Clean Energy Regulator: http://www.cleanenergyregulator.gov.au/RET/Forms-and-resources/Postcode-data-for-small-scale-installations#Smallscale-installations-by-installation-year

Australian PV Institute: https://pv-map.apvi.org.au/analyses