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Interpreting the Clean Energy Regulator’s solar panel inspection results

09 August 2019

Last month, we released the Renewable Energy Target 2018 Administrative Report. This included a summary of the Clean Energy Regulator’s Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) Inspections Program data for solar panel inspections in 2018. Full inspection results, including past years, are available on our website.

Since the release, there has been reporting of the results, some of which in our view is not an accurate interpretation of the data.

The standards set in our inspections program are very high and the inspections are thorough. Inspection report results are provided to homeowners, relevant state and territory electrical safety regulators, and the Clean Energy Council. The Clean Energy Council manages the accreditation of solar installers.

In 2018, 3,678 systems were inspected. Of these:

  • 2,850 (77.5%) were assessed as compliant.
  • 748 (20.3%) were assessed as substandard. This rating does not mean the whole system is substandard. Typically, such a rating is because one or two relatively minor defects are found in the installation that does not affect performance.
  • 80 systems (2.2%) were assessed as unsafe. The most common issues were water ingress into DC isolators (a switch), particularly the isolator on the roof1.
    • This category should be interpreted as potentially unsafe. Some moisture in a switch in an exposed location can be normal. When that is excessive, potentially owing to poor installation, it may result in a potential risk. Where anything is assessed as potentially unsafe, our inspectors take immediate action to render the system safe and notify relevant parties.

There has been an overall downward trend in the level of potentially unsafe systems installed since the inspection program commenced. It is our view that this downward trend is a result of the Clean Energy Council strengthening guidelines, including the requirement for a shroud over the top of the isolator, and ongoing associated actions to improve installer training.

The Clean Energy Regulator’s role

Our role is to administer the integrity of the Commonwealth entitlements, under the SRES. We do not have powers to enforce electrical safety. The Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 requires that we undertake inspections of a statistically significant selection of small generation units. We are required to provide information about any failures to comply with standards to bodies with responsibility for the enforcement and administration of those standards or requirements. The Clean Energy Council’s role in the scheme is to accredit solar installers and approve system components. These are eligibility requirements for the creation of small-scale technology certificates under the SRES.

What to do if you have concerns about your solar installation

If you have any concerns about the solar panels that have been installed at your property or business, please refer to our list of relevant contacts.

Householders are reminded that solar panel systems are electrical products and should only be inspected by a licenced electrician, preferably accredited by the Clean Energy Council, and should be regularly maintained.

Media contact: cer-media@cleanenergyregulator.gov.au | (02) 6159 3448

Footnotes

1 The requirement for a rooftop DC isolator was introduced into Australian standards on 16 October 2012. The Clean Energy Regulator does not have a role in setting Australian standards. It is our understanding that this requirement is unique to Australia and that it was inserted at the request of State and Territory fire and emergency service authorities. We understand there is support within the industry to remove this requirement.



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