Don’t get burnt in the solar scam

By Lachlan Durling

AN ECHUCA resident has urged homeowners to be wary of solar salespeople who are currently doing the rounds and could be misleading residents.

And could be inadvertently and dangerously overloading neighbourhood transformers.

The resident, who declined to be named, said a salesperson representing an out-of-town business came to their house after they agreed to a quote over the phone.

“We already have solar panels on the house and receive our 60c/kWh feed-in tariff, the salesperson told us we could put another seven panels up for $4000 and keep our current feed-in rate,” they said.

“I questioned it and they said ‘I guarantee you can keep your old rate, as long as you don’t tell your provider’.

“I said our retailer would notice on our bill, seeing as it would be almost double the feed-in, but they were more keen on telling me we would get our old rate and our new panels would pay themselves off in about a year.

“And in the years after that, we’d be getting a cheque we could spend on whatever we liked.”

Feed-in tariff rates are set annually by the Essential Services Commission and vary from 9.9c to 14.6c/kWh currently, depending on peak, off peak, single-feed or multiple-feed arrangements and schemes.

The 60c Premium Feed-in Tariff was introduced about a decade ago when homes were first going solar and those residents have agreements that will all expire in 2024 before being given a new feed-in rebate at the future rate.

Not convinced by the salesperson’s spiel, the resident called Powercor to see what the process was.

“My husband thought maybe the government had changed the rules. Their spiel and the way they delivered it was so convincing,” the resident said.

“When I called Powercor they said if a solar set up is altered you need a permit, then Powercor — or whoever your provider is — will tell your retailer it has changed and you will get a new, lower, feed-in rate.

“So if you do go through with it and end up on the lower tariff, you can’t get your old rate — which we would have for the next four years — and you may not be able to feed into the grid.”

The couple then consulted the brains trust — their next-door neighbour who had recently installed solar.

And they found something even more intriguing.

“I got solar but I’m not able to put any power back into the grid,” the neighbour said.

“Apparently the transformer here can’t handle any more power from homes with solar, so I’m not connected to the grid.

“It just makes you wonder how the neighbours were going to get more power back in the grid if the transformer can’t take it.”