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Solartwin’s appeal to join the European Solar Thermal Industries Federation

Filed under: Latest News

Below is Solartwin’s appeal to join the European Solar Thermal Industries Federation (ESTIF) which will be heard on Tuesday 2 December 2008.

“As suppliers of innovative solar water heating systems, we had hoped that we would not have to wash the Solar Trade Association’s dirty Laundry in front of a European audience. But in the end, we eventually had to because the Solar Trade Association were blocking us from engaging as solar panel suppliers at a European level. I am sorry about this.” commented Barry Johnston, Managing Director of Solar Twin Ltd.

Introduction. This is a request to ESTIF to become a member. In July 2008, the Secretary General of ESTIF refused membership the following reason:

“…the majority of the members of the ESTIF Board of Directors has decided to uphold the requirement for Solar Twin to be member of STA (or another ESTIF member association) before your company is accepted as member of ESTIF.”

Regarding our membership of the Solar Trade Association (STA), who were blocking (and who continue to block) our membership, he wrote:

“But if I am informed correctly, there is now one certification body, which has indicated that they would certify your product with the Solar Keymark? Then, I would believe, your STA membership should be possible again, which would allow you also to join ESTIF. Please let us know, when your status has changed so that I could send your application (again) for approval to the Board of Directors.”

In response, we obtained Solar Keymark. It certifies conformance with EN 12975. We gave it to STA, two of whose board members had tried and failed to commercialise our technology over a decade ago. But STA still refused membership, even though we meet all written criteria for STA membership including “a valid EN 12975 certificate”. Now STA are saying that we even have to pass tests in EN 12975 which are not relevant. This is particular, because:

Certain STA members who are product suppliers do not have EN 12975 certification at all.
We believe that STA accept Solar Keymark / EN 12975 certificates from members who are evacuated tube suppliers which have not performed tests in EN 12975 which are not relevant.

On this last point, Solar Twin Ltd do not seek to exempt our technology from tests which are not relevant. Instead we try to do better than this. We actually perform tests which are slightly modified, in order to make them relevant. We do this with the consent of the test laboratories and certifying agency involved.

Membership of STA.

Justice normally requires that someone who is being judged knows the full evidence against them. Unfortunately we do not know precisely what material, either formal or informal, if any, that the STA may have provided to all of ESTIF’s officers and board members. But we do know that ESTIF said they would ask the STA about us. So we have asked both STA and ESTIF for this information, in full. But it has not been sent for us to examine. Consequently we will now address the only reason for refusal which has formally been communicated to us: that it is essential for us to be members of STA.

Non-membership of STA should not stop us joining ESTIF because:

  1. STA invent non-existent “rules” which block us from being members, “rules” which are not written in their constitution.
  2. Although we used to be STA members in the past, even then, STA failed to support our innovative technology’s full and proper inclusion in the development of regulations, building codes, subsidy schemes and state funded installer training material.
  3. STA made us censor our marketing literature, cutting out valid and commercially important environmental statements supporting our product. We had to delete specific references which had showed that the operating “carbon footprint” of products supplied by STA board members is higher than ours (even though we were simply quoting government research).
  4. Apparently as a punishment for us seeking external advice on such matters, we were then unlawfully fined £1000 by STA. This was later withdrawn.
  5. Individual STA board members have made incorrect or unhelpful claims to bodies such as clients, regulators and even safety organisations.
  6. One STA board member registered an internet domain name containing our product name and had used it to generate inquiries for his business. He refuses to pass it to us for a fair price.

We are in any case, members of reputable trade bodies, including:

  • SPES, the Portuguese solar trade body.
  • Association for Environment-Conscious Building, UK.
  • Micropower Council, UK’s national body for microgeneration.
  • Renewable Energy Association, UK’s largest RE trade body.

Further credentials making Solar Twin Ltd suitable for ESTIF are:

Product accreditations / acceptances including:

  • Solar Keymark / EN 12975.
  • Renewable Energy Installer Guarantee Agency UK.
  • Irish solar subsidy scheme.
  • Portuguese solar subsidy scheme.
  • UK solar subsidy scheme.

Independent technology testing / validation conducted by

  • TÃœV NEL
  • The Energy Monitoring Company
  • Legonella Control International
  • Intertek ETL Semko
  • Arsenal Research, Austria.

Awards include:

  • Installations on award-winning projects, eg Kingsmead School.
  • Ethical consumer magazine UK “Best Buy” award.
  • Ethical consumer Magazine “Best Solar Company” award.
  • UK Government “dti SMART” award for innovation
  • UK Government “dti SMART” award for achievement

Active engagement and European and International levels:

  • Business is most active in UK, Ireland and Portugal.
  • Exports also to New Zealand, Caribbean, Dubai.
  • Europe’s Solar Keymark Network, was one of 3-5 regular suppliers there.
  • International Energy Agency TG 39: polymers in solar heating / cooling.

This is a creative, robust and successful business because:

  1. We make an award winning zero carbon solar water heating system.
  2. Solartwin has a lower carbon footprint than many solar thermal systems.
  3. We supply only photovoltaically pumped solar thermal systems.
  4. We supply major clients, eg B&Q / Castorama, with 210 stores.
  5. We use the REAL code, UK’s leading code of practice for microgenerators.
  6. We are ISO 9001 accredited. Our main suppliers are also accredited.
  7. In over eight years of trading, we have never been found guilty of any false claim or consumer misrepresentation in that time.
  8. Independent customer satisfaction data from a UK subsidy scheme shows Solartwin gives fewer problems after installation than other brands.

In summary:

  • Solartwin’s zero carbon technology offers Europe a solar thermal innovation which already has over 8 years of successful use. It is proven, viable and validated by numerous independent reports.
  • We had met all of the STA’s written entry requirements, regarding technology, in full, some time ago. It is unfortunate that STA do not allowed us to join, by creating unwritten rules.
  • Allowing the STA to operate an exclusive gateway to ESTIF membership is not helpful, given STA’s behaviour.
  • We think at least one member of ESTIF was not a member of its national trade body anyway, even where that trade body was a member of ESTIF.
  • Not all European states have trade bodies which are members of ESTIF. For example in Portugal, no national trade body is not in ESTIF but there are still ESTIF members from Portugal. We do business in Portugal.
  • ESTIF has a gatekeeper position as the only recognised European trade body in the new Solar Keymark rules regarding supplier representation. This position brings obligations as well as priviliges.
  • Our collector has EN 12975 and Solar Keymark, a certification which itself is being promoted by ESTIF.

It would be GOOD for ESTIF to allow Solar Twin Ltd to join because:

  • We are a dynamic, award winning ethical company with a record of solid success. ESTIF and success fit naturally together.
  • The technology we promote is one of the foremost solar thermal innovations to come from UK so we will bring diversity to ESTIF.
  • As proven, successful innovators, we have valuable experience to share with ESTIF in bringing “stuck” or market limiting regulations up to date.
  • We support every single one of ESTIF’s aims including ambitious growth targets, RE obligations for new buildings, financial incentives, promotion of solar, awareness raising and training.
  • We support ESTIF’s objective of abolishing of trade barriers and the creating an open solar market as stated in the ESTIF statutes.

Our formal request to the ESTIF General Assembly

We ask the GA to reverse the Board’s decision which was not to admit Solar Twin Ltd. We formally request to be a member of ESTIF.

Thank you for considering our request. Barry Johnston, Managing Director.

Solartwin invited to debate British obstruction of solar innovation in Europe.

November 20, 2008, 4:19 pm

Having been misrepresented and marginalised for years by UK’s Solar Trade Association, in a European response which appears to be without precedent, Solar Twin Ltd have been granted an opportunity to address Europe’s leading solar businesses, The European Solar Thermal Industries Federation (ESTIF) at their forthcoming General Assembly.

The invitation from Mr Uwe Trenker, the Secretary General of ESTIF reads: “You are invited to appeal to the GA for being accepted as member of ESTIF, right after the agreement of the Agenda. If you are interested in this option, we would ask the GA to accept a 15 minute period in which you and the ESTIF Board could each explain the situation from their view (5 minutes, each), after which there could be a brief discussion and then the vote. If the GA confirms the earlier Board decision, you would then have to leave the GA, otherwise we would consider Solar Twin as a member and you would be able to participate in the further meeting. Please let me know, if you intend to come to our GA in Athens.”

Barry Johnston, MD of Solar Twin Ltd commented today: “I warmly welcome Mr Trenker’s invitation. This is great news given that the constitution of ESTIF supports innovation and an open market. This is precisely the case, innovation and market access, that we will be making to the General Assembly of ESTIF it meets in Athens in December.

“Britain’s STA, some of whose board members apparently decided about a decade ago that the Solartwin technology should not be commercialised, should now stop trying to prevent us from joining ESTIF. Unfortunately we understand that STA have been actively lobbying to prevent our membership. We have asked for a right of reply to STA’s objections but even though we have asked for the full set of correspondence between STA and all ESTIF members, as would be appropriate in such an important matter. Unfortunately STA have not supplied them. So we will have to make our case rather in the dark since we do not knowing what the STA have really been up to in their lobbying.

“if ESTF do decide to accept us as members then we would enjoy working at a European level to help to achieve ESTIF’s goals. These include: ambitious growth targets, Renewable Energy obligations for new bldgs, financial incentives, promotion of solar, awareness raising and training. We also support the objective of the abolition of trade barriers and the, creation of an open solar market as stated in the ESTIF statutes.”

“The main thing I regret about flying 2000 miles to Athens to speak for five minutes is the carbon footprint it leaves behind. Let’s hope that it is worthwhile!” Commented Barry Johnston.


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