Shakeup For The Australian Rooftop Solar Power Industry

Australian solar reforms

There are some big changes ahead for Australia’s rooftop solar power sector – 13 recommendations from the Clean Energy Regulator to help weed out unscrupulous operators.

Just over a year ago, Federal Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor requested the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) carry out a review of Australia’s rooftop solar sector in relation to the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES), which is the mechanism that provides the nation’s hugely popular solar rebate.

The review was to cover a wide range of issues; from accreditation of installers to eligibility of components, to sales practices and installation quality.

The results of that review have now been released. Among the recommendations, which have been supported by the Federal Government:

  • The Clean Energy Regulator will be responsible for setting eligibility requirements for installers and solar components, taking over what was previously the Clean Energy Council’s (CEC’s) responsibility. However, an industry body (or bodies) such as the CEC could still administer installer accreditation and component listing, with accountability to the Regulator. But who the body/bodies will be is a subject for further discussion.
  • Implementing new reporting requirements for installers, solar retailers and manufacturers. For example, solar retailers will be required to supply a statement indicating the system installed will perform consistent to the quote/contract provided to the purchaser.
  • Providing the Clean Energy Regulator more effective powers to monitor and enforce compliance.
  • Ongoing monitoring of Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) schemes.
  • Launching a campaign encouraging solar buyers to carry out thorough research and seek out multiple quotes before signing on the dotted line for a solar power system.

Just on the last point, I happen to know a pretty good place to carry out research and source multiple quotes that has been around for more than a decade – but I guess I’m a bit biased.

With regard to the CEC handing off some of its current important functions under the reforms, the Regulator says the CEC has undertaken its regulatory roles “diligently over a long period”, but it was difficult for the body to undertake enforcement against accredited installers and manufacturers without the statutory investigatory powers of a Commonwealth regulator, which it can’t be granted.

The Regulator also acknowledges:

“There may be the perception of a conflict of interest with an industry body trying to take enforcement action against parties who may be its members.”

The CER Integrity Review of the Rooftop Solar PV Sector full report can be viewed here. The Regulator says it will consult on regulatory changes “later in 2021” – and there’s not much of the year left. However, the timing of implementation of the reforms will be based on feedback from stakeholders.

Angus Says…

So, what did Minister Taylor think of it all?

He welcomed the report and said the Government agrees to 12 of the 13 recommendations, noting one recommendation as work already under way.

“The enhanced regulatory arrangements recommended through the Review will help ensure that rooftop solar PV systems installed under the SRES are consistent with the value of the incentive paid under the scheme and with consumers’ expectations,” Minster Taylor stated. “The recommended reforms will also ensure that any solar installers, retailers and manufacturers who are found to be doing the wrong thing can be held to account.”

The Government’s full response can be viewed here.

What About The Clean Energy Council?

The CEC welcomed the CER’s greater role in cracking down on what has been some really shitty behaviour by a minority in the industry.

“A more active approach to regulation and compliance from the Commonwealth Government is a good step forward and the industry looks forward to working closely with the CER to refine the regulatory framework for the sector,” said CEC Chief Executive Kane Thornton

While  a minority in terms of the numbers of dodgy businesses, shonky players have collectively been responsible for many thousands of poor quality installations. Hopefully the release of the report will be recognised by these companies as a shot across their bows; motivating them to get their act together quick-smart before they are publicly named and shamed, and kicked out of the game.

And, unlike in the past, if directors or owners of ineligible retailers attempt to “phoenix” (start a new company), the Regulator would have the power to add the new entity to the ineligible list.

Perhaps an end to crap solar in Australia is finally in sight?

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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