Love Energy’s decision to seek administration has been a blow to confidence in the solar industry, but peer firm SunTrix maintains the industry can remain viable if it innovates and keeps faith with customers.
Owner and director, Richard Mintz told The Advertiser newspaper Love Energy sold its outstanding order book “to ensure the deposits of all 20 installations and all warranties will be honoured”.
Richard attributed Love’s demise, which has cost 15 jobs, to constant regulatory changes, declining feed-in tariffs making the substantial investment in solar panels less attractive for consumers and cheap panel imports undercutting Love Energy’s quality emphasis.
“The environment for residential solar has become too toxic,” he said. “It is an incredibly unstable policy area; there have been 16 changes in government policy in the last two years.
Other failed solar retail enterprises include Solar Shop (2011) and Unleash Solar (March 2013) which collapsed under substantial debts. Love Energy’s closure has been better managed. Richard Mintz maintains he has done his best to “do the right thing by everyone” and says he is “not going anywhere”, a reference to Unleash Solar director, Dion Perdikoyiannis leaving South Australia to set up Unleash Solar in the USA.
Love Energy peer, SunTrix says as government incentives roll back and the residential market moves towards saturation, only energy businesses that innovate and diversify their offering will survive.
SunTrix MD, Jenny Paradiso, says the Love Energy closure is “concerning” and predicts more will follow unless they look to new revenue streams.
“For some time now, the writing has been on the wall about the abolition of government funded rebates and incentives. We’ve taken a strategic approach to diversify our products and services and ensure we are not solely reliant upon the residential market for revenue,” Jenny says. “Our company not only focuses on homeowners, but also provides services and solutions to businesses and sells wholesale direct to the solar industry.
Jenny says being in business “for the right reasons” eliminates the risk “of closing your doors when the going gets tough”.
She also notes SunTrix has remained focused on the South Australian market while many of its competitors have expanded rapidly into other jurisdictions – a reference to Unleash Solar’s expansion to WA.
“Our commitment has always been to our home state,” Jenny says. “Offering quality products and exceptional service to people who live and work in our community is core to our beliefs.”
“During recent years, it would have been easy for us to move into other states and territories, take advantage of the government incentives, and then move on. But we’ve always been in this for the long haul, and with the volatility of the solar market nationwide, we decided to focus on the South Australian market and be the very best company we could be for consumers in this state.”
National body, the Clean Energy Council this week reported there are more than one million Australian homes using solar panels, versus only 20,000 systems in 2008.
Happy Valley and Woodcroft are SA’s most solar-powered postcodes, with 3418 and 3405 systems respectively.