Which researchers contacted 12 solar PV panel selling companies - all of which were registered under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) which is a legal requirement for installers of PV panels - to survey and quote for a PV installation on a house. The selection of companies included some of the best known names in the country: Sainsbury's, NPower and Homebase, plus some small local companies. Anglian, the double-glazing company, was included as a representative of the growing number of double glazing companies joining the solar party (doing their best to bring the industry into disrepute some might say).
Not surprisingly, the service, price, efficiency and recommendations of the 12 companies varied enormously and none came through with flying colours. Worryingly, although a roof had been chosen with shading issues which meant that only 6 solar panels (about 1.4kWp) could be installed shade-free, recommended systems varied from 1.1 to 4.0kWp, with only 2 of the larger installations factoring shading into their calculations.
The report offers some good advice to consumers with no knowledge of PV, but it focuses on being critical and self-promoting rather than on giving sound relevant information, which is what this new market really needs. Their comments on rent-a-roof schemes were critical and consumers were advised to buy rather than to commit to the 'free' schemes; rather missing the point that rent-a-roof schemes are aimed at homeowners without the means (or will) to buy.
To my mind there were too many unfortunate errors. Output and payments were spoken of as per kW rather than per kWh, which is akin to saying a car will do 35 miles rather than 35 miles per gallon. Also, significant time must have passed between the 'investigation' and the publication, because the pricing was out of date. Their summary spoke of the average 2.7kWp system costing about £12,000 which is at least 10% above the current market price.
My 'investigation' report: Good idea but could do better. Spend more time and care on the research and report writing and focus less on sensationalism. Let the facts speak out, not the headlines.
And lastly, if you are interested in rent-a-roof schemes and have not been put off by Which, watch this space for Beechdale Energy's new offering in August.