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The Truth about solar group buys

Group buy solar is a program designed to allow a group of people to purchase solar panels in bulk at a discounted price. The program is meant to make solar energy more affordable for homeowners and businesses by pooling the purchasing power of a community to negotiate lower prices from solar panel manufacturers and installers.

Typically run by a local government or a non-profit organisation, the group buy program provides information and support to participants who sign up to, usually by paying a small deposit, to be contacted by the solar installation company that are appointed by the programmes organisers. The idea is that by pooling resources the group can negotiate better deals which in turn opens up renewable energy to more people, but does the mechanism actually work in practice?

The simple answer to this is No. The idea of group buy is a great one, and in principle sounds brilliant, but there are lots of issues with the scheme and can actually end up giving home owners and businesses less choice, less support and little to no savings.

The first issue with group buy is that once you have signed up, your details will be given to the solar installer that the group organisers have chosen to implement the scheme. The issue with this is simple, the priorities of local government and non-profits during this vetting process come down to things such as, ability to fulfil over 350 installs in 6 months, the ability to financially facilitate this level of work and the ability to provide customer support to this many households. Would these be the first things that you would prioritise in making the decision on who to appoint to install your solar panels? 

The next issues is that many companies that fulfil the organisers criteria are national companies, based in an office somewhere and who use a network of sub-contractors to actually delivery the installation. This means that the company you employ have very little control over the quality of installation you receive, and that if you are not happy, you will end up on the phone to someone who really isn’t that bothered.

But it’s cheaper right? Well actually thats not necessarily true. From our research we have not found that group buy offers any substantial savings to the home owners and businesses and that actually your would pay the same for your local MCS accredited installer to fit your system. 

So Whats the point? Well thats exactly what we think. What is the point! Using group buy you get no choice in who is appointed to fit your system, you never meet the people that run the company that will install your solar panels, you don’t get multiple quotations to compare costs and optional extras and you don’t save money.

Using local MCS accredited specialists will allow you to meet the installers, get multiple quotes, have the support of local experts, get a better value quotes and you get to make the final decision. That sounds like a better option right?



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