Approved Solar Retailer | Clean Energy Council Program

Approved Solar Retailer – the Clean Energy Council’s program is over five years old now – the voluntary scheme authorised by the ACCC in 2013 has had its ups and downs. Is it worth it? Let’s take a look. 

Approved Solar Retailer | Clean Energy Council Program

The Approved Solar Retail program has grown to over 200 companies in January 2019, according to EcoGeneration. A hundred of these have been added since September 2018, which makes you wonder what the program was like for the previous five years (there are around 4,000 solar companies Australia wide). Is it worth joining the CEC or are they a toothless tiger (or a cash cow)? How does the CEC deal with complaints about members? Does this represent a glorified rubber stamp and is self-regulation something we can trust industries to work on? That’s something worth discussing with other solar owners who have had experience with the program.

Here’s their code of conduct: 

“This non-prescribed voluntary code of conduct (the Code) aims to promote best practice measures and activities for retail businesses selling solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. This Code is for retail businesses that want to demonstrate the commitment they have to promoting responsible activity and development in the renewable energy sector across Australia. This Code is not intended to replace existing consumer, energy or environmental planning legislation, policy or regulations at local, state or federal government levels, but to bring about increased accountability within the PV retail industry”

The program’s recent growth appears to be directly tied to schemes like the South Australian Government’s Home Battery Scheme and the Victorian Government’s Solar Homes Package – it appears that the ACCC isn’t ‘enough’ to regulate the industry. 

One important thing to note – being an Approved Solar Retailer is different to being a Clean Energy Council member. You can find a list of members on the Clean Energy Council members page.

If you’re having problems with an accredited solar company please fill out a solar accreditation dispute form

If you’d like to check whether an installer is accredited with the Clean Energy Council please click here.

If you’re a solar company hoping to get accredited please click here to learn more about the process and what you can expect. Membership is on a sliding scale and starts from $600 p.a. depending on the size of your company.

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Mannum Solar Farm Greenlit | Murraylands Solar

The 5MW Mannum Solar Farm in the Murraylands will be built by Tetris Energy, and has been approved by the local government. 

Mannum Solar Farm

The Mannum Solar Farm will be 5MW in size, generated by 17,500 solar panels. It will also include a security fence and vegetation screen to ensure neighbouring property owners aren’t disturbed (sometimes we hear about glint and glare when there is solar farm opposition). The farm will be across the road from the Rivapak onion packaging facility. 

An article in the Murray Valley Standard noted that over 8000 households in the Murraylands area have solar panels installed on the roof of their properties – so it’s an amazing area which shows that South Australian solar is continuing to grow domestically and commercially.

Tetris Energy, based in Melbourne, will develop the site. They have already successfully developed 10 solar and wind power plants across Australia so they have a good pedigree – and they have also already secured a purchaser of all 5MW of the power (not named) – but this is obviously a fantastic boost for the farm and will ensure it gets built quickly. The proposal had been approved last April, but had the number of solar panels slightly reduced (in the November application) so they don’t overshadow each other. 

Murraylands Solar Farms

There are already three other solar farms in the Murraylands area:

Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton discussed solar uptake in the Murraylands in the Murray Valley Standard:

“Homes with rooftop solar installed are saving an average of about $540 per year on their electricity bills,” he said.

“Solar is a clear way for consumers to take control of their power consumption and cut costs, and it’s growing quickly by word of mouth.” Mr. Thornton continued. 

Kane Thornton - Clean Energy Council - Mannum Solar Farm
Kane Thornton – Clean Energy Council – Mannum Solar Farm (source: LinkedIn)

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Clare solar farm in North Queensland now online.

The Clare solar farm, Queensland’s biggest solar farm at 100MW capacity, has connected to the grid and started exporting renewable energy. This is one of many solar projects due in 2018, totalling around 1400MW.

About the Clare Solar Farm

Clare Solar Farm
Clare Solar Farm (source: claresolarfarm.com.au)

The Clare solar farm project is located around 35km south-west from Ayr in North Queensland. It’s the biggest operating solar farm in the state, dwarfing the incumbent 50MW Kinston solar project. It is owned by Lighthouse Solar who also have ownership of the Hughenden solar farm which has a 20MW capacity and is about to begin production itself. 

We wrote about the Clare solar farm last July when it was a 125MW plant potentially going up to 150MW. It’s been launched with 100MW with the space to potentially expand down the track. They’ve signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Origin Energy along with the Bungala solar farm, which will be the biggest solar farm in Australia when it completes later this year.

According to the Clean Energy Council, around $2.6 billion of solar projects will be connected to the grid in 2018, adding around 1400MW of capacity. A solar forum held in Brisbane by the CEC last week noted that the boom in solar investment (both domestic and commercial) has led to 2760 Australian solar jobs added to the economy. 

“Large-scale solar has gone from an emerging technology in Australia at the beginning of the decade to a genuinely game-changing form of power that is cheaper than new coal or gas. It has exceeded the expectations of even the most optimistic predictions,”  CEC chief executive Kane Thornton said in comments to RenewEconomy.

“Along with the national Renewable Energy Target, support from the Queensland Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation has helped to make this one of the lowest-cost options we have for electricity today.”

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Solar Scams – a guide how to avoid them!

With the rapid proliferation of solar in Australia has come many solar companies. How do you find a good solar installer? The vast majority of them try to do the right thing but there are some solar scams out there you need to be aware of. Here’s a guide to make sure you don’t get ripped off on your solar power installation!

Solar scams

The first thing to do if you’re interested in installing a solar system is check whether the company is accredited. 

The industry body for the designer, installer, and the actual products is the Clean Energy Council. Make sure your system is designed by a Clean Energy Council accredited designer. Double check that your installer is also CEC accredited. If you’re not sure, the CEC have a list of Approved Solar Retailers you can choose from. 

Solar Scams - Choose a CEC Accredited Installer
Solar Scams – Choose a CEC Accredited Installer (source: CEC)

Double check that your panels and the inverter are accredited and meet Australian standards. If they aren’t CEC accredited, you won’t get your rebates aka Small Scale Technology Certificates (STCs) – this rebate is generally around $2,000 for a 3kW system. Click here to read more about STCs from the Clean Energy Regulator or click here if you want to use their online STC calculator. 

How do I pick the right solar company to avoid solar scams?

Ask if the person designing your system is qualified to do so. According to Choice.com.au, this will shrink your retailer list by 90% and weed out all the designers who will do a poor quality job and leave you with an under-performing solar system. 

Avoid anyone with pushy sales tactics and avoid anyone that uses door-to-door sales as a sales technique. If they’re using language like ‘never pay a power bill again’ or trying to hurry you along by saying that the government rebates are about to end, avoid them again. 

For price, make sure you get 4 quotes at minimum. Watch out for dodgy T&Cs that allow suppliers to swap out for ‘equivalent’ models, upselling, surcharges, and so on. Don’t be afraid to stop a salesman from steamrolling over you. This is a big financial decision and you should do your due diligence before committing. 

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have a page about consumer rights for solar power that you should also check out (especially if you have a problem).

What information do I need on the quote?

  • A proper, printed out quotation showing the company’s name, address, and ABN.
  • A timetable of operation.
  • Model numbers, brands, and quantity for the panels, inverter, and battery (if applicable). 
  • An estimate of the system’s performance.
  • Product and installation warranty for the inverter.
  • Installation warranty, product warranty and performance warranty for the panels.
  • Any additional funds that may be payable. 
  • STCs should be included in the quote. This is a big one! Be wary because if you’re not careful some dodgy companies can just claim them without mentioning it to you.

If Saving With Solar can give you a hand to help pick the right solar company, please feel free to get in contact with us and we’d be happy to help. 

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Ikea Solar Panels in Australia – Cost, Pricing, Brands.

According to new IKEA Australia boss Jan Gardberg, the Swedish furniture company will sell solar panels ‘at cost’ in Australia as part of a strategy to increase their market share across the country. We reported on IKEA solar panels in the UK last August and reached out about a timeline for Australia, but didn’t get a response back. But now we know!

Ikea Solar Panels in Australia

“We have already introduced (solar panels) into the UK market and in Poland and something similar in Japan, and I and the team would like to find a way to introduce that to the Australian market,” Jan Gardberg, the new boss of IKEA Australia, told Channel 9. 

“It would actually be cost-neutral because we believe this to be another positive way that we, as a big company, can contribute for the sustainable life at home for the many people in Australia”he continued – which sounds like fantastic news for consumers given solar panel technology is increasing so rapidly and energy storage becoming so commonplace the price is becoming a lot more reasonable.

But what are the ramifications for the smaller solar companies when they’re already in a race to the bottom in terms of discounting? If a company with almost bottomless pockets is selling solar as a loss-leading strategy there’s going to be some interesting days ahead. Keeping in mind the customers will still need to pay for inverters and installation there’s still money to be made for those shrewd enough to piggyback on IKEA’s plan – but along with shrinking STCs it’s definitely tough times for those in the retail solar game, where profit margins are already razor thin. 

Natalie Collard from the Clean Energy Council was positive about the Ikea solar panels:

“We expect IKEA will respond quickly to any concerns about installation quality or performance from the systems that are being sold in-store. IKEA is continuing the trend of large mainstream businesses adopting renewable energy, and this will only strengthen in the years ahead.”

“The Clean Energy Council’s Approved Solar Retailers have all committed to excellence in customer service, a minimum five-year whole-of-system warranty and ethical marketing practices. A list of these businesses can be found at www.approvedsolarretailer.com.au.”

Ikea Solar Panel Price

Ikea Solar Panels
Ikea Solar Panels (source: noco2.com.au)

RenewEconomy have reported that the UK IKEA solar panel offerings are from Solarcentury, and they currently have three separate offerings for solar panels:

  1. 3kW solar system for ~$7,800 AUD
  2. Customisable solar system (from 3kW) starting at around ~$8,700 AUD
  3. Customisable solar system with ‘seamless roof integration’ (from 3kW), starting at around $10,900 AUD

Since August 2017 IKEA also sell battery storage to the UK market – with their batteries coming from SonnenBatterie and LG Chem, both well respected and very highly performing brands. 

They also offer a 3,5, or 15 year loan to ‘spread the cost of solar’ if you’re so inclined. 

No news on how much these panels will cost in Australia or if they’ll be the same as in the UK, but as soon as we have any information we’ll update this article! 

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