The NSW Government has announced it will conduct safety audits of solar power systems installed under the state’s Solar Bonus Scheme.
NSW Fair Trading said it would conduct the safety inspections after an audit discovered some solar power system installations in northern NSW were of a sub-standard nature.
National Electrical and Communications Association (NECA) has welcomed the move. “I’m sure there are many installers who did the right thing but we need to make sure there are no dangers hiding on rooftops,” said NECA’s NSW chief executive, Mr Lindsay Le Compte.
Mr. Le Compte says NECA advised the previous government of its concerns that some solar installation companies appeared to be operating in the marketplace unlicensed.
The announcement was also welcomed by national solar power solutions provider Energy Matters‘ CEO Jeremy Rich.
“Correct installation is a very serious matter and if there are systems being installed in an an unsafe way or by unqualified people, this needs to be thoroughly investigated. There are still a few cowboys in the industry focused solely on a quick profit who are unlikely to be around in a few years from now – leaving their customers high and dry if problems with install or component quality are uncovered.”
“Safety is paramount to us. All tradespeople installing our systems must have appropriate accreditation and Energy Matters has additional internal auditing processes to ensure that our solar installations meet safety and performance standards.”
Mr. Rich says the skill and care of the installer isn’t the only factor in ensuring a safe solar power system. “Energy Matters only utilises solar panels that meet and exceed Australian and European standards, but panels are only one aspect of a system. It’s crucial that other components such as wiring, inverters and circuit breakers are all of good quality.”
The timing of the audit’s announcement has also met with some suspicion that it serves to distract from the O’Farrell government’s handling of the Solar Bonus Scheme and its decision to not only close the scheme to new applications, but also renege on its commitments and introduce retrospective legislation that would see some participants’ solar feed in tariff rate slashed. The controversial decision has not only drawn harsh criticism from outside the Liberal party, but also within.
Australian Solar Energy Society (AuSES) CEO John Grimes said the O’Farrell government had sat on a report alerting to the installation safety problem for two months, without discussing it with the solar industry, and instead leaked it to the media a day before a critical party-room meeting to discuss the Solar Bonus Scheme.
“This is a government that is under enormous pressure, this is a shambolic response and the people of NSW will see it for exactly that,” said Mr. Grimes.