I hope like me, you got a chance to recharge your batteries with a summer break after a grueling year in 2013.
The holidays are a chance to reflect, talk to “real people” and look at the big picture for a while. It seems like months ago already and I’m starting this solar year on a pretty upbeat note. Here’s why.
Firstly, almost without exception every business I have talked to (including non-solar ones) are feeling much more upbeat about consumer confidence. The year has started surprisingly strongly for many and the sense I share with many is that with the election behind us, a record breaking summer where solar proved its value again and the whole country pinching pennies last year, 2014 could be the year when spending gets back to normal.
I start every year with a Forecasting lock-d0wn with Warwick Johnston from Sunwiz who co-authors our annual Forecast each year. It’s a brain melting 5 day session where we run countless scenario’s, multiply combinations and permutations of factors and crucially look back at what happened last year. We spend the year capturing data, announcements, policy changes and read thousands of pages of reports, integrating them into our thinking.
Some fascinating things happened in Australia in solar in 2013, bucking some historic trends. The market is definitely telling us some things about how its likely to behave this year and we are pleased to announce that yet again, we were really, really close on our forecast for the year.
We have completed the first cut of this years forecast which looks forward five years, and we have had to make some changes based on where we are at politically. Until the report is finalised I won’t give too much away but I will say that I think we’ll need our running shoes in the first half; the second half could be more challenging is foreign exchange and silicon wafer prices keep heading the wrong direction.
There are also a potentially nasty combination of things that could happen this year which together could have serious implications for sales. Although we consider this our Low case scenario and traditionally the market doesn’t behave like that it is certainly possible. The sentiment from Government and the rubbish from some of our politicians certainly doesn’t inspire confidence.
As if to prove the point, in the first weeks of the year one of the countries larger Solar Retailers has been brought to it’s knees by the ACCC and effectively banned from trading for misleading behaviour. There will be negative consequences for consumers on that one which will spill over. If the court documents prove to be accurate in the FY ending 2012 the combined entities sold $22Million dollars of solar systems and made a Net profit of 1.4% ($318,601). You have to ask yourself what the point of that was and wonder how many others had similar results trying to chase them into the gutter. I also wonder how many disappointed and unsupported customers will be left behind.
This is just the first collapse of the year, there will undoubtedly be more as the industry settles into a new predominantly unsubsidised rhythm and from what I’m hearing margins aren’t great our there. So,some swings and some round about’s this year.
Welcome to 2014.