The new myCEC service can help the solar industry keep on top of regulations and reduce compliance concerns, writes Robbie Nichols from the Clean Energy Council.
In Australia, thousands of solar installers are investigated or audited for compliance issues every year. It costs them time and energy and can result in serious outcomes. However, the Clean Energy Council’s new myCEC service can help the solar industry navigate regulations and reduce compliance issues.
PV solar and battery installers need to keep up with a lot. As a third-generation electrician with more than 30 years’ experience in the electrical industry, and more than 10 years as a solar installer, I have seen this first-hand.
In 2007, when the Clean Energy Council began administering the solar accreditation program, there were less than 400 accredited installers working in the industry, who set up around 3400 systems that year. Products and configurations were complex, but were being designed and installed by a passionate, experienced, professional and relatively small cohort. The standards at the time were reasonably clear and simple, as were the regulations.
Fast-forward to 2023 and there are more than 9000 accredited installers in Australia, who are installing more than 300,000 systems each year. Systems are now bigger and more complex, integrating everything from solar and batteries, to heat-pump hot water systems and electric vehicles.
Not only do installers deal with state electrical bodies and inspectors (in some states) but also the Clean Energy Council, Clean Energy Regulator, state programs, Distributed Energy Register (DER), New Energy Technology Consumer Code (NETCC) and network providers.
During the past five years, we have seen numerous changes to the standards installers need to comply with; a new National Construction Code and the creation and implementation of new standard AS/NZS5139; a new accreditation code of conduct; the move from the Approved Solar Retailer program to the NETCC; an update to vocational training units; and in South Australia, new dynamic export limit regulations.
All of this is necessary because solar and battery systems provide an essential service, are high-value purchases subsidised by governments, are potentially dangerous and are developing rapidly. Nevertheless, it’s understandable that with so many rules and regulations, compliance among installers is not perfect.
The Clean Energy Regulator conducts audits and inspections. While unsafe non-compliance issues are discovered in around 1.5 per cent of cases, substandard non-compliance issues have been on the rise and occurred in 25 per cent of cases in 2021.
Installers are trying to keep on top of regulatory developments alongside the never-ending list of administrative, marketing and accounting tasks involved in running their own businesses. They are not solely to blame for non-compliance issues. Shortcomings from other stakeholders in the industry can trigger installer compliance errors, including poor instructions from training providers; incorrect designs and quotes from retailers; poor communication from regulatory bodies; and outdated interpretations from inspectors.
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So what is the solution? The answer starts with technical education and support for everyone involved in the industry.
A majority of the solar installer industry wants to do the job right and avoid time-consuming non-compliance issues. Most problems arise from a lack of knowledge or a misunderstanding rather than negligence.
At the Clean Energy Council, we believe opening the information available to the whole industry and providing better education and support is key to fixing the issues. That’s why we have launched our myCEC subscription, which builds on the knowledge and services developed in the 15-plus years we’ve been running the accreditation program, to give industry the tools it needs to keep on top of standards and regulations.
The myCEC subscription features:
- Experts on your team: The Clean Energy Council’s Technical Services team includes experienced accredited installers who still have their boots on the roof as well as sitting on numerous committees and working groups relating to regulation. They are available on email to answer your questions.
- Supercharge your skills: Our Toolbox Talks are short videos to help users get up to speed on tricky technical topics. Our Advice Docs are deep-dive guidelines on specific standards that give you all the details you need. LearnLAB gives you access to a range of courses with CPD points available.
- Business essentials: Simple templates and checklists to ensure you are covered on specific jobs, plus a maintained list of regulatory updates so you can check on developments. We also have exclusive offers on insurance and workwear.
- Feedback opportunities: Have your say on the issues that matter to you through regular polls, industry opportunities and our Industry Reference Group.
The Clean Energy Council wants to raise standards across the industry – not just on design and installation – so the myCEC subscription is available to anyone. Whether you are a salesperson looking to learn more about technical aspects of the job, an inspector who needs detailed interpretations of relevant standards, or you want industry updates and relevant offers, myCEC has tools that can help.
Here are some current issues to check out on myCEC:
- Earthing: This is the biggest non-compliance issue the CER deals with. We have short videos addressing earthing conductor sizing and relevant standards, as well as an advice document on commissioning.
- Safety: There have been serious non-compliance issues regarding safety recently. SafeWork (NSW) has worked with us on a CPD course available in LearnLAB. You can also download a battery risk assessment template to tick off on jobs.
- Flexible exports: Although this is only currently a requirement in South Australia, SolarQuote’s Anthony Bennett recently said, “This issue is coming to a renewables-heavy grid near you soon and it will be a nightmare for all concerned if we don’t get it right.” SA Power Networks have worked with us to develop a CPD course available in the LearnLAB.
We want the myCEC subscription to help industry get on top of regulations and avoid compliance issues. If there is a topic you want to see covered, or ways in which the service could provide better value, let us know here.
Get expert support from Robbie Nichols and the Clean Energy Council’s Technical Services team with a myCEC subscription. Find out more at cleanenergycouncil.org.au/mycec.