Another big Australian solar installer in liquidation

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One of Australia’s largest rooftop solar installers, Metro Solar, put into liquidation, but management plans a buy-out and says customers will not be disadvantaged.

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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.

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A Metro Solar installation at the Richmond Football Club in Melbourne

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.

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9 Comments
  1. MaxG 3 years ago

    Should I feel sorry? 🙂

    • PeterB 3 years ago

      Yes…..nobody wishes this to others, not to the owners, customers or the staff

      • MaxG 3 years ago

        I am referring to this: “the bigger a company grew, the more unstable it became” … and not feeling sorry… it is classic mismanagement.
        However, I do feel sorry for any employee loosing their job.

        • solarguy 3 years ago

          It’s always the big solar companies who with their tight margins fail because their mantra is sell cheap shit, get second rate installers cheap, in order to get a dominate market share.

          So when warranties don’t get honoured by the manufactures, government helps create anti solar rhetoric, then things go tits up very quickly because there is no meat left on the bone when you sell in high volumes at low, low margins. Nobody wins.

          Cheap solar isn’t cheap and never will be.

  2. Margaret Baillie Conyers 3 years ago

    It is saddening that a good company in this important business is in trouble. I thought the technology in the panelling had found that much thinner sheets produced just as good collection as the thicker – current usage panels. Richmond FC should have let them out of the promise if it meant bringing down a company and its employees – not good behaviour all round.

  3. David McKay 3 years ago

    The aim should be to always have a nimble business, despite size. You need to be able to rapidly change to suit market dynamics. This is possible, however, takes effort & hard work. Stop changing & evolving & you are done for!

  4. Henry Cavil 3 years ago

    Staff told on Monday 13th June (yes public holiday) by txt msg
    Company into liquidation – entitlements up the river!
    2 days later company starts up again with new phone number
    suss to me.
    new company takes old contracts for sale and leaves staff and suppliers up the river

  5. Jo 3 years ago

    Dodgy company….never paid staff Super….ever….

  6. Jo 3 years ago

    Same owners, just changed directors names so they can keep & hide assets.

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