Solar Victoria Targeting Safety And Quality 

Solar Victoria - safety and quality focus

Solar Victoria is keen to get the message across it won’t tolerate shoddy work and shonkiness occurring under the state’s Solar Homes subsidy program.

Yesterday marked the first day of the second phase of the rebate program and as expected, it was extremely busy. As at around 6am this morning, the counter on the agency’s website indicated 1,549 PV subsidies were left for this month – so 1,784 had been approved since yesterday morning. Once all 3,333 Victorian solar rebates budgeted for the month are approved, that’s it until the beginning of August.

How many months it will be before the pace slows down remains to be seen. Among other challenges, the new approach has put a lot of pressure on buyers and installers to be “first in, best dressed” – a click frenzy for PV.

While the rebates allotted for solar power for this month may run out very soon, buyers can still do their research and get quotes in preparation for the next month/s.

Targeting Shonky And Shoddy Solar Power

Solar Victoria says it will be closely monitoring for dodgy behaviour by salespeople and installers, and will refer incidents to Consumer Affairs Victoria and the Clean Energy Council. The agency states it has already referred 19 businesses to Consumer Affairs Victoria for further investigation, including operators of web sites generating leads for other businesses that have made what it says are spurious claims.

“In a very competitive market, our objective is to protect consumers from those who prey on people with little knowledge or experience with solar,” said Solar Victoria Acting Chief Executive Jonathan Leake.

The agency will also be inspecting up to 5% of all solar power installations benefiting from the Victorian Solar Homes rebate, using a risk-based approach. These post-installation inspections will be performed by independent safety auditors commissioned by Solar Victoria and take up to two hours to complete1.  Solar businesses and installers are provided the results of audits and compelled to bring installations to the required standard where issues are identified. In some cases, the solar power systems are switched off until that work is completed.

Approved Solar Retailer Requirement

Yesterday also marked the beginning of a requirement for the state’s 150 biggest PV retailers to be Clean Energy Council Approved Solar Retailers (ASRs) in order to participate in the program. From the beginning of November, this requirement will extend to all retailers wishing to participate. The compulsory Approved Solar Retailer status is a thorny issue, but it’s a done deal.

Not all of Victoria’s top 150 retailers were good to go yesterday, but more than two-thirds had attained ASR status by that point. Of those that weren’t ready, Solar Victoria says the Clean Energy Council had rejected 23 applications; but most are reapplying.

PV Worker Safety A Priority

As well as the system audit, an unannounced inspection program during installation is being delivered by WorkSafe Victoria and Energy Safe Victoria.

“We’ll use the information gathered to educate the industry on where improvement is needed, and remind it that there are consequences for poor performance, including enforcement action and the potential for disqualification from the Solar Homes Program,” said Mr. Leake.

Working at height, fall protection, manual handling and electrical safety are issues of particular concern.

The agency says its focus on safety and quality helps support the many good solar businesses and installers doing the right thing – by dealing with or removing those participating in the program who aren’t.

Footnotes

  1. On a related note, check out SQ’s Ronald’s thoughts on random solar installation inspections
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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