Vic Government Bans Solar Installer from Rebate Program

The Victorian Government has banned Community Energy Group from installing systems under its Solar Homes rebate program.

The government announced a ban of two years for the firm, which it says, “put solar workers and home occupiers at risk”.

“Investigations found that Community Energy Group Pty Ltd, trading as Space Solar (Victoria), had employed unlicensed electrical workers to carry out works in an unsafe manner.”

Customers affected by unsafe practices

According to ASIC data, 727 solar installers have gone into liquidation or stopped trading between March 2011 and May 2019.

The Victorian Solar Homes program began in 2018 and offers financial help for solar panel installations. Up to $2,225 is available to eligible Victorian homeowners and rental properties.

Community Energy Group conducted 546 solar power installations that received rebates under the Solar Homes program. Solar Victoria has contacted customers to inform them of the audit findings.

State Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the program was strictly audited in partnership with Energy Safe Victoria.

“Dodgy solar operators that put the safety of Victorians at risk have no place in the Solar Homes program, and we won’t hesitate to kick them out,” she said.

“The majority of solar retailers and installers do the right thing — we’re acting to protect their reputation and uphold the standards of our world-leading solar industry.”

Why are so many solar installers failing?

The reasons behind the closure of so many solar companies are complex and often not linked to unsafe practices.

A report from leading solar panel manufacturer LG suggests the cost of backing up unreliable products after installation is often the issue, an issue commonly linked to what we call ‘cheap solar‘.

It claims installation companies are not prepared to carry the cost of product warranties where they are also the importer.

“Then the install company themselves, as per Australian Consumer Law, carries the make good costs,” the LG report states.

Often a cheaper or unaccredited solar product is used as a replacement. This triggers a chain of failures over a relatively short time. The installation company is soon struggling with masses of panels and inverters to fix, forcing them to shut up shop.

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