Regulation
September 23, 2021

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The Australian government’s Clean Energy Regulator (CER), has conducted a review into the rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) sector on 15 September 2021, in response to a request from the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction. Through this review, new modifications were recommended for the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) regulations, with the aim to improve its integrity.

These include obligations and requirements for installers,operators, manufacturers, and retailers involved in the sector, promoting better consumer outcomes. The Australian government gave solid support to these recommendations and committed AUD$19.2 million to implement the reform.

In this article we will briefly discuss the background that led to the review and what this means for the industry and consumers.

Why Did This Review Take Place?

After continuous reports involving  defective installations, misuse of installer accreditations, safety and quality concerns, and general consumer concerns of solar installations, the effectiveness  of the current regulatory framework of the SRES was questioned. Since then, the CER have attended to these issues to guarantee proper compliance. They confirmed that many current rooftop solar PV systems do not meet the eligibility requirements to entitle a Small-scale technology certificate (STC).

Additionally, another big concern that led to the review is the rapid growth of the solar PV sector in recent years, driven principally by decreasing system costs due to available financing options. This level of growth has brought with it new entrants to the sector, such as, solar system retailers,  electricians, and laborers, increasing risks for both the integrity of the scheme and for consumers.

Figure 1. Small-scale solar PV installations 2010 -2020. Source: Clean Energy Regulator (AU)

What Does the Review Consist of and Who Does It Affect?

The main objective of the review was to reform the actual regulations of CER, which impacts the following three sectors.

Installer Accreditation Scheme

The recommendations include giving the responsibility and powers to the CER for:

- Setting the rules and framework for an installer accreditation scheme and the power to approve eligible installer accreditation

- Taking actions to accredited installers who make false written statements, including suspending or cancelling their accreditations

- Requiring that all installations must carry out in accordance with state or territory laws

- Requiring additional training for accredited installers on their legal obligations in making a written statement ofeligibility for STCs

 Solar PV Components Listing

The recommendations include giving the responsibility and powers to the CER for:

- Setting the rules for listing key solar PV components (solar panels and inverters) as eligible for Commonwealth entitlements in the form of STCs

- Taking administrative and compliance action against solar panel and inverter manufacturers who fail to meet eligibility requirements, including suspension and cancellation of their listing(s)

Consumer Protection – Solar Retailer and Installer Compliance

The recommendations include giving the responsibility and powers to the CER for:

- Disqualifying retailers, including key management and officers, who make a false written statement from making further statements in the STC creation process

- Conducting a campaign encouraging consumers to carry out thorough research and obtain multiple competitive quotes before contracting to install a rooftop solar PV system

Wrap Up

The government has supported 12 out of 13 recommendations of the review and committed $19.2 million to the CER. It is expected that all these efforts will occur, thus improving the SRES’s integrity and most importantly protecting consumers by ensuring that any solar installers, retailers, and manufacturers who are found to be disregarding and defying laws and regulations will be held accountable.  

 

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