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Compliance activities

​Failure to comply with the Act can result in prosecution and penalties where warranted. The Clean Energy Regulator has a proactive policy for monitoring and ensuring compliance with the requirements of the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000.

The Clean Energy Regulator's investigation and enforcement activities raise awareness about compliance obligations. Through its compliance web page and by publishing compliance statistics and enforceable undertakings, the Clean Energy Regulator sends a clear message about its commitment to ensuring all parties comply with the Act.

The Clean Energy Regulator also works in close partnership with other agencies that have regulatory responsibilities under the legislation. This includes sharing relevant information, intelligence gathering and referring matters for law enforcement.

The Clean Energy Regulator's certificate validation activities outlined on page 28 are also an important component of maintaining the integrity of the Renewable Energy Target and the certificate market.

Power station monitoring inspections

Part 11 of the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 authorises the Clean Energy Regulator to perform monitoring inspections of the affairs of a registered person to substantiate information provided under the Act and determine whether the registered person has complied with the Act and Regulations.

Monitoring inspections may be performed with the consent of the registered person or in accordance with a monitoring warrant issued under the Act.

In 2014, the Clean Energy Regulator performed four monitoring inspections of renewable energy power stations. All inspected power stations were found to be compliant with the Act and Regulations and the Clean Energy Regulator took no further action.

Inspections of small generation units

In 2011 the Government introduced a provision in the Act for the Clean Energy Regulator to inspect a statistically significant sample of installed systems each year for compliance with Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme eligibility criteria. This includes relevant Australia/New Zealand standards related to electrical safety.

Responsibility for electrical safety is a matter for state and territory electrical safety regulators. Each year the Clean Energy Regulator inspects a sample of small generation units installed under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme for compliance with eligibility criteria and provides the results of these inspections to the state and territory regulators to assist them in their compliance role.

The objective of the inspection program is to ensure that the increased installation demand resulting from Renewable Energy Target incentives does not lead to any reduction in installation standards.

Under section 23AAA of the Act, the Clean Energy Regulator inspects small generation units for compliance with the eligibility criteria for claiming certificates. Small-scale solar panels on the rooftops of residential buildings are the most common small generation units.

The Clean Energy Regulator has deeds of standing offer with four service providers to inspect small generation units installed in the states and territories. The service providers are Global Sustainable Energy Solutions, Master Electricians Australia, the Australian Solar Council and Carbon Footie. All inspectors hold an unrestricted electrical license in the state or territory in which they are conducting inspections, as well as Clean Energy Council accreditation.

The cumulative percentage of unsafe and substandard systems has fallen

The Clean Energy Regulator selects systems randomly for inspection across Australia based on the number of installations for which the small-scale technology certificates were created and their geographical location.

Under the Regulations, if a Clean Energy Regulator inspector finds an unsafe system, they must immediately notify all interested parties of the extent and nature of the safety risk. This includes the homeowner, installer, system designer, agent and the relevant state and territory electrical safety regulator.

Table 8 provides details of the inspection reports received in 2014.

​​
Table 8: Number of final reports for inspections of small generation units received by the Clean Energy Regulator between 1 January and 31 December 2014
StateNumber of systems inspectedSystems unsafe1Systems substandard1
ACT3000
NSW4732585
NT303
QLD1 24731247
SA602875
TAS7045
VIC6752971
WA54716104
Total 3 647 113 (3%) 590 (16%)

1 As defined by the Clean Energy Regulator.

Graph 20: Summary of cumulative inspections results since the inspections programme was introduced, up to 31 December 2014

Summary of cumulative inspections results since the inspections programme was introduced, up to 31 December 2014. 

Graph 20 shows a cumulative summary of inspections results since the inspections program was introduced in May 2011, up to 31 December 2014. The graph shows that the cumulative percentage of unsafe systems and substandard inspected systems has fallen since the inspections program started: cumulative unsafe systems from 4.2 per cent in 2011 to 3.9 per cent between 2011 and 2014, and substandard systems from 21.1 per cent in 2011 to 14.84 per cent between 2011 and 2014.

A majority of unsafe and substandard installations are attributed to water ingress of DC isolator switches and installers failing to ensure all DC wiring within the building is enclosed in heavy duty conduit. Both relate to Australian Standards changes, effective from October 2012. Inspections in late 2014 identified improvement in sub-standard rates when compared with earlier in 2014.

In late 2014 the Clean Energy Regulator had scheduled a meeting of the Renewable Energy Target Inspection Advisory Committee for early 2015 to elicit the views of electrical safety regulators and peak industry bodies on the results of inspections.

Total cumulative inspections data is available on the Clean Energy Regulator website.22

Investigations

The Clean Energy Regulator actively investigates allegations of breaches of the Act. In 2014, the Clean Energy Regulator received 102 matters related to possible breaches, with 27 matters open as at 31 December 2014. The open matters included 23 cases under investigation and four incident reports under assessment.

The majority of matters requiring further attention in 2014 related to the improper creation of certificates for solar panel installations.

In 2014 the Clean Energy Regulator closed a total of 121 matters relating to the Act, including 49 investigations that were finalised during the year. These investigations resulted in activities such as client education, rectification of installations, enforceable undertakings, letters of advice/warning, and the failure and/or voluntary surrender of improperly created certificates.

There were three enforceable undertakings agreed to in 2014 and five closed.

As a result of the finalised investigations, a total of 36 477 improperly created renewable energy certificates were surrendered (relating to 278 individual installations).

49 investigations

3 enforceable undertakings

1 conviction

One REC Registry account was suspended while investigations were undertaken.

The aim of the Clean Energy Regulator's Compliance, Education and Enforcement Policy is to achieve voluntary compliance. However, civil and criminal prosecutions are pursued in the more serious matters.

In July 2014, in the New South Wales Sutherland Local Court, Ms Lucie Yeung was convicted of New South Wales fraud offences for the improper creation of small-scale technology certificates to the value of more than $1.2 million. She was sentenced to two years imprisonment to be served by way of intensive correction in the community.23

In another case, an investigation into allegations of improper creation of renewable energy certificates led to charges being laid. A committal hearing in the Queensland court systems is scheduled for early 2015.

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