The Australian Government has announced it will invest $19.2 million to protect rooftop solar customers better and improve the rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) sector.1
The announcement follows a review into the rooftop solar PV sector by the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) and the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (DISER). The review set out to address reports of major concerns within the industry, including consumer issues, faulty installations, misuse of installer accreditation details and safety concerns.2
The federal government will implement reforms to the small-scale renewable energy scheme (SRES), an initiative that creates incentives for residents and small businesses to install solar panel systems, solar water heaters and other renewable energy systems.
Nearly 380,000 rooftop solar installations occurred in 2020,3 with the government saying the reforms are “designed to improve integrity in the sector and reduce the number of low-quality installations and unscrupulous operators”.1
What changes are being made?
The CER’s Integrity Review of the Rooftop Solar PV Sector report found that changes could be made to the current SRES regulatory framework to better manage compliance, safety and quality risks. Overall, the review made 13 recommendations covering three themes, including:
- strengthening eligibility requirements for installers involved in the SRES;
- tightening the criteria for solar panels and inverters used as part of the SRES; and
- placing new legal obligations on SRES solar retailers to promote better consumer outcomes.2
Some of the 13 recommendations that will help consumers include:
- Retailers that are ineligible to sell solar PV systems if they perform poorly, will now be publicly listed. To avoid investing in dodgy installations or underperforming systems, a full list will be disclosed on CER website.
- To give consumers greater confidence that their solar PV system is being installed safely, correctly and in accordance to laws, accredited installers will be held accountable by the CER if they make false statements relating to the installation of solar systems.
- To reduce the risk of dodgy or counterfeit components being purchased and to protect the consumer’s claim in the event of a problem, increased component quality checks and a greater assurance from manufacturers that the components they supply comply with Australian Standards and the SRES will be implemented.
- To keep all customers informed to these ongoing changes and to raise awareness within the industry, the CER, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) and state and territory fair trading bodies are being encouraged to conduct regular campaigns.
The complete list of recommendations can be seen in the report here. Meanwhile, the government’s funding will also help develop online tools and information resources so Australians can make more informed choices when purchasing a solar PV system.
How will the changes benefit solar customers?
The Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, said the reforms were about offering greater protection to solar customers.
“Protecting the integrity of a system that has such a wide-ranging impact on Australian households and businesses is a top priority for the government,” Minister Taylor said.1
“The solar PV industry delivers consumer and economic benefits, and most participants are following the rules. These reforms will ensure that those solar retailers, installers and manufacturers who are found to be doing the wrong thing are held to account.”
Minister Taylor added that improving the regulatory framework will help stamp out the safety and quality risks that the sector has faced, so future rollouts of solar PV systems can be safe and successful.
Clean Energy Council welcomes the news
The Clean Energy Council has welcomed the reforms, with Chief Executive Kane Thornton explaining that changes are already being seen within the sector.
“The solar industry has already begun acting on a number of these recommendations, including the requirement for installers to be on-site during installations, increased training and awareness about the expectations on installers,” Mr Thornton said.3
“The Clean Energy Council is committed to continually raising the bar, improving standards and driving the few dodgy players out of the industry.
“This includes advocating for further regulatory reform such as cracking down on ‘phoenixing’ in the solar industry [when a company is created under a new name to avoid previous problems and debts], creating a national electrical safety body and the introduction of nationally consistent inspection regimes.”
For more information about solar power in Australia, read our solar energy guide.
Image via Shutterstock
- Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction – ‘Protecting consumers and securing the integrity of Australia’s rooftop solar sector’ – Accessed 17/09/2021
- Australian Government Clean Energy Regulator – ‘Release of Integrity Review of the Rooftop Solar PV Sector’ – Accessed 17/09/2021
- Clean Energy Council – ‘Solar industry in good shape with further compliance on the way’ – Accessed 17/09/2021
- Clean Energy Regulator – ‘Integrity review of the rooftop solar PV sector’ – Accessed 20/09/2021