Master Electricians Australia (MEA) has joined the fight against a new state regulations, which it says will hit the Queensland solar industry hard. The regulations mean only licensed electricians can now handle solar panels on solar farms – a job requiring no electrical skill.
MEA CEO Malcolm Richards also claims the new solar farm regulations are “vastly different” to those promised by Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
He said the new rules will add endless “red tape” to solar farm installations. They will therefore be more costly to build, tying the industry up in “unnecessary regulation”.
Built-in inefficiencies for Queensland solar industry
The Queensland government officially amended the Solar Farm Code of Practice on May 13. It means only licensed electricians can perform manual tasks like mounting, locating, fitting or carrying solar panels on Queensland solar projects of 100 kW plus.
This video explains why the Queensland solar industry is against the new rules. Source: Clean Energy Council.
Many of these tasks have traditionally been carried out by trades assistants. This lowers projects costs and frees up electricians to focus on more specialised work.
The rules could give electricians some short-term commercial gain, Richards said. However, they are not in the long-term interest of the wider solar industry.
“Our members didn’t do a four-year electrical apprenticeship so they could lift heavy solar panels,” he said in a statement.
Queensland solar industry lobbies to scrap new regulations
The Queensland Liberal Opposition is moving to have State Parliament disallow the new regulations covering solar farms.
Master Electricians Australia is now endorsing this motion. Parliament should scrap the new regulations and start again, MEA says – this time listening to interested parties.
Meanwhile, the Clean Energy Council (CEC) convened an emergency roundtable this month. The CEC claims the solar industry has been almost completely shut out of the consultation process.
According to the CEC, the new solar regulations will destroy job opportunities for workers in regional Queensland. It will also put local tradesmen out of work and make solar farms more expensive.
New solar laws already causing job losses: MEA
Meanwhile, State Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace has defended the decision to amend the solar code.
She said she was responding to Queensland solar industry concerns about worker safety. Stakeholders had reported untrained labourers and backpackers mounting or removing solar panels that were “live”.
This is dangerous because solar panels generate power as soon as they are exposed to sunlight, Grace said. Therefore only qualified electricians should handle them on solar farms and large commercial solar sites.
However, the CEC said the government could not provide evidence of a single safety breach involving labourers mounting unconnected panels.
The Labor Government may be responding to political pressure from the Electrical Trades Union (ETU).
The absurdity, according to some commentators, is that it is apparently acceptable to the Government to put non-electricians installing panels on someone’s roof in danger, but it is not acceptable on a big solar farm installation. They point out that if it’s dangerous, the same rule has to apply for all.
The laws do not affect residential solar energy installations.