Supporting the rooftop solar industry through another challenging year is just part of the job of working in the Clean Energy Council’s Tech Team, writes Nathan Smith.

It has been a year of challenges. Those of us working in the solar industry, and virtually everyone throughout Australia, have felt the effects of lockdowns and the impact restrictions have had on our lives throughout 2021, both professionally and personally. However, with restrictions beginning to lift and a large proportion of the population having been vaccinated, it seems the worst is behind us.

With everything beginning to open up again in Victoria and NSW and the prospect of in-person end-of-year celebrations to look forward to, now is a good opportunity to reflect on the year that was in rooftop solar and the ways in which the Clean Energy Council has been able to support the industry.

It’d be impossible to talk about the past year without first discussing the difficulties that covid-19 and its associated restrictions posed, and the challenges the industry faced when trying to safely continue its work. As the CEC’s accreditation scheme services installers right across Australia, the constantly changing advice and restrictions in different states and territories required us to work closely with our industry contacts to seek clarification on the implications of changing guidelines and how they would impact installers in the affected areas.

Because solar and battery installation was usually lumped in with the construction industry, we would often need to seek specific clarification for the industry while continuing to take calls and work with installers to provide our usual level of support. This work was supported by the addition of two new members to the tech team based in South Australia and Western Australia.

New CPD framework

Earlier this year the CEC began transitioning installers renewing their accreditation to a new continuous professional development (CPD) framework. This involved a change in the way training content is delivered by launching the CEC’s Learning Hub, a platform that ensures the relevance of content and makes it easily accessible for installers when needed.

The Learning Hub offers a range of new training courses, including material outside of the typical content on installation practices and standards. One such course is a program developed by Beyond Blue on supporting mental health in the workplace, which has proved particularly popular in such a difficult year for the industry. More courses are being added to the Learning Hub all the time, providing us with a fantastic new way to address industry needs for education as they present themselves.

The CEC is working on an offering to provide access to Clean Energy Council technical content for those in the industry who do not hold design or installation accreditation. The CEC Tech Team is excited about this new initiative as it will allow others working in the industry – such as apprentices, trade school teachers, electrical inspectors and network service providers – to take advantage of content that has previously not been available to them.

DC isolator expiries and AS/NZS 5033

A recent issue was the unexpected and untimely expiration of the certifications of several of the more commonly used DC isolators. As these components are critical for the completion of solar installations, the abrupt announcement that many of the products that installers were familiar with had expired caused a great deal of concern for installers, who were left wondering if they could continue to use the products that they had in stock.

Following an influx of calls and emails from concerned installers around the country, the CEC reached out to the various state and territory regulators so that we could provide advice to installers on the best course of action. At the time of writing this issue is yet to be resolved, but installers can find the most up-to-date advice on our website at cleanenergycouncil.org.au/industry/products/information-on-expired-dc-isolators.

At the time of writing, the industry was still waiting on the publication of the new version of AS/NZS 5033. While amendments have previously been made to this important standard, this will be the first time it has been re-written since 2014. The changes in AS/NZS 5033 will have implications for everyone installing solar arrays, so it is critical that we are aware of the changes before the standard becomes mandatory. The CEC Tech Team is developing content to support installers as the standard becomes available.

Looking forward to a better year in 2022

The entire CEC team remains committed to supporting installers and the industry so that they can continue providing customers all over Australia with quality rooftop solar installations. The issues covered in this article are just a small glimpse of the many things we have been working on over the past 12 months, and there is a lot more that we are continuing to work on to ensure the continued health and integrity of the industry.

We are all looking forward to the new year, where we hope that there will be far less disruptions that will allow for a much easier and more productive time for everyone out there on the roof. And hopefully we’ll be able to catch up for a beer at one of the CEC’s in-person industry events.


Nathan Smith is a technical program specialist at the Clean Energy Council.