Australia’s Clean Energy Regulator this week served search warrants at several residential and commercial addresses linked to a Perth-based solar PV retail and installation business as part of an investigation into a potential $1.5 million solar panel scam.
September 16, 2022 David Carroll
The Clean Energy Regulator (CER) confirmed on Friday that a Western Australian solar PV company is being investigated amid concerns it falsified information in Small Scale Technology Certificates (STCs) for about 500 solar panel installations worth about $1.5 million.
The regulator said the group, which sells and installs solar systems and acts as an agent for the Small-Scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES), is under investigation for allegedly preparing information about responsible installers and designers of around 500 solar panel installations.
Piet Powell, CER’s senior compliance manager, said the search warrants were aimed at uncovering evidence of misrepresentation to the regulator, resulting in STCs not being created correctly.
“The Clean Energy Regulator requires the highest standards of compliance and integrity in the Small Scale Renewable Energy Scheme for the financial incentives provided,” he said. “Agents, installers and retailers who fail to adequately ensure that they are eligible for the creation of STCs, or who are party to providing false or misleading information, may be subject to criminal, civil or administrative liability.”
Powell said there is no direct evidence that the installations are either unsafe or substandard, but CER is working with state regulators and homeowners will be contacted if concerns are found about the quality of the installation.
The CER said the investigation was unrelated to the search warrants executed in September 2021 and May 2022, while other potential fraudulent activity in the solar industry in WA was being investigated.
The investigation caps an unhappy few days for WA’s solar industry, with the state’s Consumer Protection Watch earlier this week warning homeowners looking to install a rooftop system to be cautious following a surge in complaints about performance claims, shoddy systems and workmanship.
Almost 40% of homes and businesses connected to WA’s main grid have rooftop solar.
Photo: Western Power
Consumer Protection said it received 67 consumer complaints this year about issues such as substandard parts, companies not responding or providing false and misleading information, and installers not using them, up more than 10% from the same period last year. due care and skill.
WA has a thriving rooftop solar industry, with more than 400,000 homes and businesses, or about 36% of customers on the state’s main grid, estimated to have rooftop solar. By 2030, this number is predicted to rise to 50%.
While the number of complaints received was small compared to the number of systems installed in WA this year, Acting Chief Executive of Consumer Protection Penny Lipscombe said the issues were an important reminder to consumers to thoroughly research who they plan to do business with.
“Before agreeing to buy a solar system, there are several important checks to make, including getting independent reviews and making sure your preferred supplier is accredited by searching the Clean Energy Council website,” he said.
“If the supplier’s verbal claims influence your decision, make sure they are included in the written contract and that you read all the terms.
“Solar installers are not allowed to use forceful or high-pressure sales tactics to get you to buy anything, and they cannot give you false or misleading information. They must also ensure that their products and services meet consumer guarantees.”
The electrical components of the system must be installed by a licensed electrician working under a licensed electrical contractor.
“You should ask to see these licenses and expect to receive electrical safety certification for the job,” Lipscombe said.
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