PQRS recommended P4 contractors and EPC’s

Introduction

PQRS has developed the first quality assurance platform in South Africa; this was done in conjunction with guidance from a number of organisations and stakeholders involved in the sector. The platform is called the PQRS PV Performer Platform or P4 platform in short and measures 5 disparate performance metrics promoting good practice in the solar PV sector. Transparency is key and it is not the intention to attempt enforcing rules or standards that can’t be policed.

How P4 works

The PQRS PV Performer Platform(P4); scores contractors involved in the PV sector on performance, knowledge and best practice. Currently five metrics are used to determine a total score which in turn predicts risk associated to a specific contractor. The lower the score the higher the risk.

It is possible to be part of this platform at absolutely no cost provided your installer passes the free qualifying online test with the first attempt. Only two steps are required in order to become a participant on this platform and a total of 5 steps for earning the highest accolade.

All the steps
  1. Step 1: Agreeing to the Terms and Conditions of the platform is the first step in the 5 step process and is the qualifying criteria to continue with the other 4 steps. Agreeing to the terms and conditions awards a contractor with a certain number of points. With the terms and conditions contractors agree to being tested against and do installations by applying certain standards. These standards are covered in more detail in the ‘Standards’ section.
  2. Step 2: Test at least one individual from every organisation on the P4 platform involved with solar PV against theoretical PV knowledge by taking the online P4 PV test. This individual may be a full time employee or a sub contracted individual. Passing the online test awards a contractor with a certain number of points. Should you fail the first three attempts you will have to attend a solar PV course before being given the go-ahead for attempting the test again. Fail the second round of three attempts and you will have to provide evidence of where you have participated in at least three PV installations before being given the go-ahead for attempting the test again. The pass rate is 80% and will remain 80% throughout all the attempts.
    An image showing a flowchart or the processes involved with applying for and writing the P4 online test

    An image of a flowchart showing the steps involved with, applying for, and writing the P4 online test

  3. Step 3: By agreeing to the standards, at least one random installation in a 12 month cycle will be evaluated using a visual evaluation form, which can be seen in the “visual evaluation parameters” section of this page and for which the criteria is fairly straight forward.The online version of the form can be seen here.. The visual evaluation form will score the installation being evaluated and the score in turn will award the contractor with a certain numeber of points.
  4. Step4: Have the solar PV installations that have been done by the organisation, listed on the PQRS directory.
  5. Step 5: Have the end user or client review the service received from the contractor on the P4 platform

Standards

There are literary dozens of standards that apply to electrical and solar PV installations. Based on standards that deserve direct recognition for this platform, only 4 main standards will be focused on. These four standards cover electrical design, PV design, electrical testing and electrical commissioning and inspection guidelines.

  1. Electrical Wiring to be done according to the electrical wiring code.
    1. SANS 10142-1
  2. Requirements for special installation or locations – Solar PV power supply systems
    1. SANS (IEC) 60364-7-712
  3. Testing of Low voltage electrical installations
    1. IEC 60364-6
  4. Minimum requirements for system documentation, commissioning tests and inspection
    1. IEC 62446

Which risks are reflected or covered in the Score?

The solar PV industry is complex and diverse. In South Africa for example a diverse range of occupations are flooding the PV sector doing installations and claiming to be specialists or experts in the field of PV. With each installation there are numerous stakeholders including:

  • Manufacturers (modules, inverters, mounting structures and others)
  • Suppliers
  • End users
  • Financiers
  • Municipalities / Utilities
  • Any contractors / sub contractors also involved in the project.

Both during and after a PV installation all of the above mentioned stakeholders are exposed to risk in one way or the other. The Performer Score reduces risk for all the stakeholders mentioned above by ensuring that proper procedures and control can be executed or maintained and that activities by contractors are transparent.

How is the PV Performer Score calculated?

PV Performer Score = A + B + C + D + E (+ F) and is a Score out of 100.

  1. Test Score X 0,375
  2. Standards Agreement X 20
  3. Latest Inspection Score X 0,55
  4. Listing of data on PQRSAfrica.com 1 X 5
  5. Customer Review Score Stars X 2
  6. (Green Card Bonus Points = 5) This score will be activated once the Green Card system has been implemented

How is the PQRS PV Performer Score interpreted?

The PQRS PV Performer score is categorized into four zones being NV Zone, Active Zone, Grey Zone and Safe Zone. It is important for new PV contractors to be in the Grey zone as a minimum criteria, and for existing contractors to be in the safe zone.

Image showing 4 rows and 4 tables with the scoring categories indicated for the P4 quality assurance platform.

PQRS P4 quality assurance category table

Are EPC’s and installers scored differently?

Contractors are not scored against their status as an installer or EPC but rather against their activities in the energy sector. This is due to the broad range of business models in the sector.

Can new businesses be scored?

Yes. A single business owner can therefore sub-contract the services of an electrician to do the installation and the services of another external engineer to do the design and still qualify for the 4P score as the electrician might be identified as the individual responsible for writing the knowledge test. The 4P score will therefor ensure that at least one of the members on the team will be knowledgeable on the subject of PV. The business owner however will still be held accountable for the complete project based on the expertise of the complete team.

Who qualifies to be scored?

Any organization that has been registered as a formal business whether considered to be an NGO or For Profit organization.

Are scores made public?

Although the P4 score generally will not be made public, Grey and Safe zone contractors are displayed / promoted on the PQRS site as either “Grey” or “Safe”. Certificates displaying the score can be requested from PQRS by subscribers, or may be published by organisations who subscribe to the P4 Program. It is at the discretion of an organisation to publish their own score. PQRS will simply publish aggregated versions of the scores along with the category associated with each contractor.

Some examples of how the score is applied

Company A is a new company with only 1 salesman (Henry) that owns the company. i.e. the company only has 1 employee and sells PV systems to residential end-users. Henry is not an electrician or an engineer. Henry can register on the P4 platform by sending his electrician to write the PQRS PV online test at no charge. During the test application process the electrician can identify Company A as the P4 registered entity. Should the electrician pass the test, he will be linked to Company A as the electrician and Company A will be credited with a test score value multiplied by the factor of 0,375. Next step is for Henry to agree that his installations can be inspected and evaluated according to a agreed inspection list / sheet which is aligned to IEC 62446. These two steps will allow Company A to operate in the Grey zone. Company A has successfully done 1 installation. In order for this company to receive an even higher ranking. Henry now has to:

  1. Have his system inspected / evaluated
  2. List his system on the PQRS database or on the PQRSAfrica.com directory
  3. Have the client review his installation on the PQRSAfrica.com directory

The only cost to contractors for being part of the platform will be to have their system evaluated. They will only have to have one system evaluated in a 6 month cycle provided that they are doing installations.

What if the contractor is not happy with the evaluation?

Where contractors feel the platform has scored them incorrectly or have a complaint, or some form of query or concern, contractors agree to follow arbitration and mediation guidelines in order to resolve any pending issues.
An attempt should first be made internally between the contractor or plaintiff and the P4 platform; before any external resources are approached or appointed.
Suggested complaint process.
Step 1: Send an e-mail indicating the issue and receive a written response or reply to that specific e-mail. The subject of the e-mail should include “Complaint to be resolved”
Step 2: Should there be no response, the e-mail in question may have ended up in a junk mail or spam folder. Phone the recipient and enquire as to the response to the e-mail and enquiry.
Step 3: Should the complaint be severe enough to warrant elevating the complaint, a mediation or arbitration approach must be adopted in order to decrease the time during which the complaint or issue could be resolved. Contractors involved on the program agree that e-mail is an adequate and acceptable form of communication when used in conjunction with verbal / telephonic confirmation in order to ensure an e-mail  response has either been received or submitted.

How do I see my score?

Contractors participating in the platform will receive an e-mail notifying them of any changes in the score. Scores can only be seen on Performance certificates.  For the time being the scores are managed manually and this process will evolve to being more automated in future.

How many certificates are there?

There are 4 types of certificates. The only certificate that carries any weight is the Performance certificate as it is an expression or breakdown of a contractor’s activities in the sector.

  1. An agreement certificate.
    1. Certificate nr.1 will be issued as soon as you or the authorised individual from your organisation has signed up to P4 and is issued once. This is a confirmation certificate showing your organisation’s intent and commitment towards quality solar PV design and installations.
  2. A performance certificate
    1. The performance certificate is issued upon request and is not issued free of charge. The performance certificate is issued when financial institutions or clients request confirmation of an organisation’s involvement and standing with the P4 platform. The performance certificate is issued as many times as is requested. Theoretically the organisation against which the certificate is issued should be notified when a certificate is issued. It is the aim and intent of PQRS to issue performance certificates within 24hrs of being requested. Performance certificates have a 12 month shelf life, is issued manually for the time being and is the only certificate that has a unique certificate number. Certificate numbers should be validated in order to ensure authenticity.
  3. An evaluation certificate
    1. Evaluation certificates are issued when you or someone else does an evaluation of a pv installation. Evaluation certificates are generated automatically, emailed when the submit button is entered and is issued free of charge. The actual evaluation might have a charge depending on where, when and who was involved in doing the evaluation.
  4. A test certificate
    1. Test certificates (see a sample of the test certificate) are issued only once a test has been passed. Test certificates;
      1. Are not linked to a formal qualification,
      2. Expire after a period of 12 months,
      3. Are issued subject to the terms and conditions of the P4 platform,
      4. Should not be used on their own as they form part of a set of performance criteria and the Performance certificate should be used as a margin of activities.

What do I do with the certificates?

  1. The agreement certificate is simply for your records and is a token that your agreement on the platform has been recognised.
  2. The performance certificate is used and submitted along with project proposals or requested by clients to ensure that the companies they are dealing with is up to date with standards and are committed to quality installations.
  3. Evaluation certificates are evidence that the specific installation has been done according to P4 guidelines which are aligned to IEC 62446 standards. We take the score from this evaluation and add it to the overall score of the organisation involved with this platform. The score from the evaluation certificate will affect the score on the performance certificate.
PQRS recommended P4 contractors and EPC’s

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