Clean Energy Regulator STC Compliance Activity Update

STC compliance - Solar

Australia’s Clean Energy Regulator says it has recently undertaken compliance activities relating to the creation of small-scale technology certificates (STCs) associated with solar systems in Queensland and New South Wales – and it’s not done yet.

STCs form the basis of Australia’s major solar subsidy (aka the solar rebate). The number of certificates a solar power system is eligible for depends on its size and where in Australia it is installed. The certificate value is usually traded for a point-of-sale discount, but the STCs aren’t generated until the system is installed, and must be created by a registered agent who has been assigned the rights for the certificates.

Once created, agents then sell the STCs on the open market, or through the Clearing House administered by the Clean Energy Regulator.

In order to be eligible for STCs, a system must incorporate solar panels and inverters listed on the Clean Energy Council’s Approved Products List and be installed by a CEC accredited installer.

The Regulator has been responding to instances of installations it suspects of having unapproved solar panels, where accredited installer details have been misused or the system simply doesn’t exist.

As part of this activity, the Regulator has been physically inspecting systems, executing monitoring warrants on business premises and temporarily suspending agents’ REC Registry accounts. Various parties have been interviewed, including registered agents, installers, solar retailers and owners of systems for which STCs have been claimed.

Potential Legal Proceedings

It hasn’t provided any specific details as to who/what/why/where and when at this point, but says its activities may result in the agency commencing legal proceedings – and its compliance activities will continue.

“Agents are critical to the integrity of the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme,” states the Regulator. “Over the next 12 months the agency is increasing its attention on the role of the agent in our scheme and will be reviewing our agents’ fitness to participate.”

Registered agent responsibilities, expected capabilities and standards of practice can be found here.

In March, the Regulator announced it would be visiting registered agents across the country in relation to compliance obligations. Last month it issued a warning to agents regarding scams involving the creation of STCs for solar panel systems that don’t exist, providing advice to agents of potential danger signs to watch for.

As at March 31 this year, certificates had been claimed for 1,846,402 small scale solar power systems installed across Australia. At this point, there’s nothing to suggest dodgy STC claims are widespread. The Regulator wants to ensure it stays that way and is striving to drive down such occurrences to zero, or taking action whenever it does occur.

Last year, the Regulator claimed several significant scalps in incidents involving thousands of improperly created certificates, some of those based on false information provided by third parties.

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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