One of Australia’s largest rooftop solar installers, Metro Solar, has suffered financial collapse, with notice published last week that the Victoria-based company had been put into liquidation under the administration of accounting group Hall Chadwick.
In a notice dated June 15, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) said that the company formerly known as Metro Solar would be wound up, with Hall Chadwick’s David Ross and Richard Albarran appointed as liquidators.
But in an interview with RenewEconomy on Monday, Metro Solar general manager Paul O’Connell said that while the company was before the liquidators, a sale agreement had been reached in which new owners, headed up by O’Connell, would assume all debt and ensure customers were looked after and warranties honoured.
“Metro Solar customers will not be disadvantaged,” O’Connell told RE.
Of course, Metro is not the only Australian solar company to run into trouble. In February, Melbourne retailer Infinity Solar (now rebranded as Infinity Power) went broke, while clean energy retailer GO Energy was put into voluntary administration in April.
And on a global scale, April also saw the bankruptcy filing of US based SunEdison – once the largest renewable energy developer of the world – the culmination, as we reported here, of a downward spiral variously attributed to hubris, overreaching ambition and a mismanaged acquisition strategy. The local operations of SunEdison are expected to be sold soon.
According to one solar industry insider, the troubles reflect another slice of change taking place in the sector, in which the bigger a company grew, the more unstable it became. Margins are also incredibly tight for solar installers.
“Big is really struggling,” the source said. “Big is good at solidity and predictability, but in times that are highly changeable, it’s little and nimble that fare the best.
“That’s why we’ve got birds and not dinosaurs.”
Signs that Metro Solar might be experiencing financial difficulties emerged in April, with news of a legal spat between the company and AFL club the Richmond Tigers.
According to reports at the time, Richmond was suing Metro Solar in the County Court, claiming it was owed $100,000 over a two-year sponsorship agreement.
The club said it had made numerous demands for the outstanding money, and claimed that in a November 2015 meeting with Metro Solar, director Anthony O’Connell had said the company didn’t have the money to pay the club.
In response, Metro Solar had claimed it was entitled to end the sponsorship agreement with the Tigers, due to the off-field misconduct of one of its players, which it said had brought the brand into disrepute.
Metro, which began its life in 2006 as a general electronics business and switched its focus to “solar solutions” in 2008, recently entered a partnership with Enphase Energy, as a retailer of the California-based company’s AC battery storage solution.
According to its website, Metro is Australia’s largest Enphase installer, was in the top 50 of Global Enphase Installers for 2015, and has clocked up more installations of microinverters then its five major competitors combined.