As required under the legislation, the Clean Energy Regulator inspects a statistically significant sample of solar panel systems installed within the last 12 months that have received incentives under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme. The inspections assess conformance with scheme eligibility requirements, including whether or not they meet state and territory electrical safety requirements.
Of the 1910 inspections conducted in 2019, 41 were found to be unsafe or potentially unsafe. This is an unsafe or potentially unsafe rate of 2.1 per cent, down slightly from 2.2 per cent in 2018. Unsafe is the most adverse rating in the program and is the basis for identifying safety risks. The agency’s experience has shown there is a small number of inspections where a solar PV system does pose an imminent safety risk at the time of inspection, such as when there are exposed live parts or unsecure PV panels.
However, the majority of such PV systems found to be potentially unsafe do not pose an imminent safety risk. Most were due to water ingress in DC isolators. Of these, the degree of water ingress varies and in most cases the DC isolator may become unsafe without timely maintenance but should not pose an imminent risk. Nevertheless, this risk is more than would be attributable to a substandard system and the practice has been to characterise such instances as unsafe.
For these reasons, the Clean Energy Regulator distinguishes between PV systems that were unsafe at the time of the inspection and PV systems that were potentially unsafe at the time of the inspection.
The Clean Energy Regulator provides the results of unsafe and substandard inspections to the relevant state and territory electrical safety regulators that are responsible for electrical safety. The Clean Energy Regulator also provides this information to the Clean Energy Council, which manages the accreditation of solar panel installers and approves the key components used. The Clean Energy Regulator otherwise does not have a safety regulation role.
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