Australian government orders solar install quality investigation

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Australia’s environment minister Greg Hunt has ordered an inquiry into the quality of solar system installations.

The move follows an investigation by Fairfax Media, the publisher of the Sydney Morning Herald, which claimed that systems were failing after as little as one year.

The minister has reportedly written to the Clean Energy Council (CEC) demanding that it open an investigation within a week. The CEC runs an accreditation scheme that gives installers' systems eligibility to the government support.

Hunt has clashed publicly with the solar industry in recent months, launching a personal attack on John Grimes, CEO of the Australian Solar Council, over its campaign targeting marginal seats. Hunt called Grimes “a total failure of an industry leader” during a radio interview.

While the report and the response by Hunt can be construed as political, a survey by the consumer watchdog, Choice, found high incidences of consumer dissatisfaction with the quality for the solar installs.

It found in January that 32% PV owners had an issue with their installer and 25% had experienced problems with their system itself. One in 10 people said they had had to replace their inverter.

These figures are far higher than those found by the government’s own Clean Energy Regulator. In a survey carried out through 2013, it found that 3.3% of almost 4,000 tested systems were unsafe and 9.7% were substandard.

The country has been embroiled in a bitter debate on renewable energy since prime minister Tony Abbott came to power. Funding through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency was curtailed and the country’s Renewable Energy Target still faces an uncertain future.

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