20% of solar panels substandard 

ALMOST 20 per cent of solar panel installations in the Hunter may not have been installed correctly, a parliamentary committee has heard.

The federal Clean Energy Regulator told a budget estimates hearing in Canberra on Monday hat random checks of 7000 solar units across Australia revealed 19 per cent were substandard.

Four per cent of the units were found to be unsafe and shut down on the spot while others required retrospective work.

There are now more than a million solar photovoltaic units installed nationwide.

About 15,000 Hunter homes now have rooftop solar panels. The majority were installed during the ill-fated solar bonus scheme that was scrapped in 2011.

The Newcastle Herald has fielded numerous complaints from customers unhappy with the quality of workmanship they received.

General manager (renewables and carbon farming) at the Clean Energy Regulator Andrew Livingston said the majority of installers did high quality work.

However, some homeowners risked being left with substandard work because there was no way for the regulator to compel installers to fix their work.

Geoff Evans, manager of the advocacy group Solar Citizens, said  he was surprised at the regulator’s estimate of substandard work.

‘‘Most people that I have spoken to have been happy with the service they have received,’’ Mr Evans said. 

‘‘If someone does get a raw deal there are avenues to get it fixed,’’ he said.

The Clean Energy Regulator can fine licensed agents that contract installers to do work. Agents can be fined $3500 or face losing their certificate.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission received 1613 complaints about solar systems in 2012, up from 1229 the year before.

These are in addition to complaints made to state-based fair trading authorities.