28 Apr 2010 03:04:25
Renewable energy to up their game
The renewable energy industry needs to significantly improve the quality of service it offers homeowners if it is to gain the confidence of the public, and renewable energy is to become a credible option, according to YouGen.
The Which? Report highlights the problems of mis-selling, over claiming for what products can achieve, and of ‘dodgy’ sales tactics in the solar thermal market. These also happen in the heat pump market (see comments section of this blog on heat pumps).
“These technologies are still not well understood,” said YouGen founder Cathy Debenham. “Unlike a gas boiler, they are not all suitable for every home, and whether it’s appropriate will depend on how people live in their home, how well insulated it is, whether they have electric showers, whether they have a cylinder installed and many other things. To get the best from renewable energy you need to think holistically. This doesn’t necessarily happen when a company that is just selling one technology comes round – there’s a danger that rather than assessing the best option for the home, they will just try to sell the product.
“Of course, there are excellent companies who do tell it straight (SunGift Solar, the top rated installer on the YouGen site, scores top marks across the board from 10 recommendations), added Cathy. But the fact that the Office of Fair Trading received 1,000 complaints last year, when there were only 6,684 Low Carbon Buildings Programme grants paid for domestic solar thermal installations since April 2006 is very scary indeed for consumer confidence.”
There are several ways that YouGen helps people falling prey to cowboy sales:
* It provides simple, easy to understand information so that people know what they can expect from a system before they contact any installers.
* It invites people with renewable energy installed to rate the service of their installer on YouGen, so other people can search for a recommended one. Installers listed on the site are encouraged to invite that feedback from all their customers.
* It publishes a guide to how to spot - and avoid - the solar cowboys.
YouGen is calling on more of the pioneer microgenerators to feedback on the service they got from their renewable energy installer using the YouGen system, so that other people can benefit from their recommendations and find an installer they can trust. They are also able to add a profile to the site to share information about their renewable energy installation, what they’ve learned about it and to give tips about how they get the best from it
YouGen is also calling on installers to up their game and provide excellent customer service for their own good as well as for consumers. “There is huge potential for growth in this market, but is much less likely to take off if consumers don’t feel that they can trust the industry,” said Cathy Debenham. “And if we don’t sort out the problem now, it is likely to get much worse once the Renewable Heat Incentive is introduced and there’s more money involved.”