Solar Victoria investigates claims of automated applications

13/08/19 4.34am

Solar Victoria has investigated claims that some operators had used artificial intelligence to scoop up more than their fair share of the monthly solar rebate allocations.

Solar Victoria said a review into activity on the Solar Homes Portal on 1 August had shown no evidence of artificial intelligence, bots or any other automation. 

The investigation was of a statistically significant sample of transactions and, with high confidence, Solar Victoria can rule out automated interaction with the portal which was designed to prevent such attempts.

Any retailers suspected of not transacting in the spirit of the scheme will be investigated, with the possibility of severe penalties or exclusion from participating in the program if found to be involved in misconduct.

Although no evidence of automation or scripting was uncovered, errors such as ‘quote not found’ caused some customers frustration when trying to secure a quota allocation.

Based on July and August figures the top 20 retailers account for 32 per cent of the rebates. Top 21-130 retailers account for 54 per cent of rebates with the remaining retailers in the top 150 securing 14 per cent.

Solar Victoria has listened to customer feedback and industry concerns and will soon allow retailers to upload draft quotes at any time in the month, regardless of whether the rebate allocation has been exhausted or not.

This will mean significantly less stress when customers log in to find their details at 9am on Monday 2nd September. The date was moved forward by one day following industry feedback that a weekend release was not ideal.

There were also reports of a ‘spinning wheel’ when customers were trying to find their August quotes. The review found this was most common when people tried to access the portal before the 9am opening time on 1 August.

We would again advise retailers to continue to work with their customers, so they are successful with their applications and in acquiring an available rebate, including making sure the email addresses are entered correctly.

At its peak on 1 August, there was a concentrated surge in demand and our systems began to constrict traffic as a preventative measure, resulting in the delays some customers experienced in trying to complete their application online.

The system has been reconfigured to handle future patterns in line with August activity.

There are 634 active retailers and there are 16,311 quotes in the system today.  This amount does not equate to 16,311 customers as some have speculated. The figure includes multiple quotes from multiple businesses to the same customers.

So far, 54 percent of applications have taken up the interest-free loan offer. 

The amount of power generated from solar panels installed since August last year under the Solar Homes program is 258,435 megawatt hours. 

Victorian households who have benefited from rebates in the first year of the program are estimated to have saved $45 million to date.

Reviewed 15 August 2019

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