New rules rushed through by the Queensland Government are likely to hit the commercial solar sector hard when they come into effect in less than two weeks, and will make it harder for the state to meet its own renewable energy target, the Clean Energy Council said today.

Anna Freeman, the Clean Energy Council’s director of energy generation, said the new regulations for solar meant that electricians had to be used for work such as carrying unplugged solar panels or bolting them to a rail.

“This is like having to call in an electrician to hang a TV on a bracket on your wall. It’s absurd. It would be virtually impossible to electrocute yourself by handling an unconnected panel. You’re at greater risk from plugging in a toaster at home,” Freeman said.

“The changes will drive up the cost of building both large solar farms and commercial solar systems installed in places like shopping centres, schools, swimming pools and factories.

“Estimates from solar businesses are that the cost of building commercial projects will increase by 10-20%, delaying the payback period for businesses and schools and making many projects unviable.

“Combined with the effect on large-scale solar farms, these changes will slow the installation of solar across the state and make it more costly for businesses to control their energy costs.

“Not even an electrical apprentice will be able to handle and attach an unconnected solar panel, so the opportunities for apprentices to work in the new solar industry are going to be slashed. At the very time in which the Federal Labor Party announces its commitment to boost apprenticeships in renewable energy, the Queensland Government continues to persist with a regulation that will kill off many clean energy apprenticeships.

“From 13 May, those businesses which already have projects under construction are going to have to wear this extra cost, without the ability to pass this on to their customers. This means many small- to medium-sized businesses will be out of pocket,” she said.

Freeman said the sudden regulatory change had not been justified, with the government not able to demonstrate a single safety incident on a solar farm relating to the mounting and fixing of solar panels.

“To our knowledge, no other jurisdiction on the planet has such extreme and unnecessary regulation in place,” she said.

“We are asking the government to immediately delay this new regulation before people start losing their jobs, so that proper consultation can take place with the solar industry.

“If the Palaszczuk Government is willing to return to the table, we are confident that we can work co-operatively together with all parties to find a way forward that does not destroy jobs and investment.”