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Should the Old Solar Trade Association be boycotted by consumers? Tell your friends…

Filed under: Latest News

The systematic blocking of superior and often innovative solar thermal systems from the UK and European solar thermal market is increasing rapidly. With jaw-dropping case studies, this paper examines the rotting state of UK’s solar water heating market.

Read this alternative to the Old Solar Trade Association’s   Solar Thermal Standards and Innovation presentation sessions which took place at Ecobuild, London on 4/3/9. I hope this alternative take on things is refreshing!

This briefing paper, presented by Barry Johnston, Managing Director of Solar Twin Ltd
offers an entertaining behind the scenes glimpse into the nasty gold rush mentality which operates in the solar hot water technology market. It’s based on their experience of ten years of gentlemanly but systematic obstruction of solar thermal innovation in UK by powerful vested interests, for whom fairness, safety,   consumers and our environment are a low priority compared to diverting market share away from disruptive new technologies. It’s a DIY primer on how to corner a market – that being the solar panel market in UK. It’s as easy as 1,2,3.

1/ Block innovation by inventing non-existent rules to stop out of date standards from being updated. The Chairman of the BSI’s Solar Thermal Technical committee RHE 25 inappropriately used an administrative manoevre in 2007 to block Solar Twin Ltd’s request to have the solar panel standard EN 12975 updated to cover innovation properly. EN 12975’s technical concept has barely moved forward since the 1980’s. So Britain is stuck in a time warp: several innovations which were not around at the time are just not properly included. But this standard, despite it being market limiting,   is named   in building regulations and specifications for   grants. You might like to ask the first speaker why he said that Solar Twin’s suggesions for its updating, which were put to BSI, were rejected because they were not in the form of a table instead of paragraphs. Incidentally the table that the BSI chair specified that we use was a one which was to be used for the proposal of new standards, not the updating of existing market limiting standards, as was the case here.

2/ Censor inovation and fine any company which dared to tell the truth about old solar’s deficiencies. A Solar Trade Association board member came to my home and instructed me to censor the promotional literature of Solar Twin Ltd, even though what we wrote was legal, decent, honest and truthful. The problem was this: that it showed solar technologies promoted by several board members of the STA in a poor light. This was because we republished, with names, the operational carbon clawback of their mans powered solar water heating systems, some of whose pumps and controllers (run on mains electricity) negated their carbon clawback by as much as 23%. When we sought to resist this and similar unreasonable demands, the STA board fined us £1000. This fine was levied even though we were not present to make our case. After we spent much more than this on legal fees, the fine was rescinded and our name was cleared.

3/ Grab the money and run. £86k of state funds were spent on developing a solar thermal installer training manual which fails to cover innovation properly. We invited those involved to our seminars: they did not come. We offered to help to write it: this was declined. We offered editorial suggestions: most were ignored. The British Plumbing Education Council, The Solar Trade Association led this project from a technical perspective. As a result of this old solar hijack of taxpayer’s funds, hundreds of solar installers have been trained not to specify our system properly and are misled about its potential and much of the “sell via installers” market is closed to our innovation as a consequence. And we ar e forced to run our own training semars to overcome this deficiency: this effectively puts up the cost of innovative products, thus reducing their competitiveness in the market.

4/ Ignore HSE safety guidance. HSE’s guidance for Legionella, a bacterium which grows in tepid wayer and which can cause a lethal form of pmeumonia, is called L8. It applies to commercial applications and in homes in the rented sectior. GIven that owner occupied homes can dip in and out of the rented sector it makes sense to install all solar installations to be Legionella guidance compliant. But most of the solar thermal industry has been ignoring this document for years. Indeed it is absent from the following documents DCLG’s Domestic Heating Compliance Guide; CE 131 This is CIBSE’s guide to solar thermal: The BPEC solar installers training manual and MIS 3001 which is a market limiting MCS solar installers specification. There is common authorship across most of these cross-referencing documents whose knowledge of Legionella seems to be questionable on several counts. For example he refers to Legionella poisoning (which does not happen) rather than infection. Rather than being thanked for bringing this to light we have been vilified by the industry for raising it and even for daring to suggest several safe ways forward. Amazingly for a country which claims to operate fairly, it seeems that now those bodies who have been largely responsible for breaking HSE guidance for years have been asked by Government to fix the regulations themselves – rather than the concompliant installations. Why was an independent player not asked to step in? Why have we been excluded from any meetings or consulations on the matter?

5/ Invent rules which keep innovators out of the Solar Trade Association and Europe. The STA have invented non-existent rules to block us from membership. Consequently we are also barred from seeking access to regulatory change at a European level (such as EN 12975, given the BSI blockage here) becase STA also control who can join Europe’s trade body – and of course the STA block us joining here too. The STA rules say that you can reapply to join STA every year. By they have unilaterally increased even this to several years delay even though this is not in their rule book either.

6/ Prop up old solar on a raft of myths. Consensual myth building pays rich dividends in the solar market. Find ways to encourage a clever self taught expert independent solar consultant to write most of the UK’s regulatory and quasi-regulatory documents. Just one person is best for most of them. Don’t put the author’s name on most of them. This really helps because then you can make sure that these documents all cross-refer to each other. This way, most of the nonsense and inaccuracies which cause market bias againt innovation can be “independently substantiated” with reference to other documents (written by the same person). See that person, of course without actually declaring that he is the author, make discreet and helpful references to his assorted documents in varous blogs such as here for the CIBSE stuff. Orhere for BPEC. (You will find loads more examples of similar professional modesty if you search on google.) Never pay him anything whatever as as incentive, of course. Let him do it all for love and watch him feed on plain air. Bingo! Now you have a fantastic self supporting raft of myths – which all concur that old solar is gold solar – and that innovation aint. Clever – eh!

Amusingly, an unrelated namesake of his has experience in writing anarchist magazines promoting covert anti-commercial sabotage – see page 10 of this academic report on covert sabotage and the people who supported or conducted it.

Here is a quote:

“[Same Name deleted], a physics graduate who had come into contact with EF! (US), had attempted but failed to establish an EF! in the UK during the late 1980s, by importing copies of Ecodefense and promoting ecotage. He was disillusioned by the subsequent emergence of EF! (UK) which in his opinion did little to promote sabotage. [Same Name]’s libertarian right wing sympathies were, in turn, rejected by ELF activists, who believed that direct action should explicitly link environmental and social issues”

PS Dear no-win-no-fee defamation lawyers, before you leap on this as a money making opportunity please note: having the Same Name does not mean being the same people. Think about all the John Smiths of the world. Please note that the promoter of secret sabotage named in this academic report is reported to be a physics graduate.

But the self taught expert independent consultant that we are talking about is, as far as we know is not a physics graduate, despite the coincidence of him having claimed to haved studied physics at university on a DTI website (a claim which quietly disappeared when we raised a question about his consequent academic qualifications with DTI).

Therefore yes, we really can all conclude that we are looking at two are entirely separate people.

This awful coincidence in naming must be a bit embarrassing for one of these two people – at least. Thank goodness that they are, in fact separate personae, not least for the reputation of this independent solar consultant’s esteemed clients such as Old Solar Traders Association of whom he is an ex Chairman, Fishlodge Solar to whom the OSTA has subcontracted state funded writing jobs which were then subbed on to this independent expert, nor the state funded Sungottengains registered charity in Nottingham for whom he played no part at all as technical consultant and was surely gobsmacked when this contract was coincidentally won by, yes, Fishlodge Solar. And let’s not forget his selfless public service with the British Sub-standards Institute, Craicospanmax, the Blackball Research Establishment and many others from the old boys solar industry. Laughing all the way to the bank…

Should the Old Solar Trade Association be boycotted?

Well, at least we all know that they are not using an enthusiast of anti-corporate sabotage to help them keep their consumers away from other people’s superior innovations.

It’s your choice… Tell your friends…

I hope this briefing is fun. Rather like our self taught expert independent solar consultant’s qualifications and scribblngs, this web page has undetectably mutated into a strong but deadly pyramid scheme. So unless you tell your friends about it now, your favourite pet amoeba wlll die very painfully of Legionella poisoning in about three minutes. Or perhaps from fake red tape stranglation. Or maybe a chunk of masonry might break free from the solar industry and squash it fair and square.

Stop Press. 6 march 2009. More censorship. I posted a link to this article on an independent green building website but it was removed within a few hours.

Regards, Barry Johnston of Solar Twin Ltd.


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