The Queensland Government has lost a second appeal to amend the state’s Electrical Safety Act 2002 that restricts the handling and mounting of solar panels to qualified electricians only. These Queensland solar farm laws have been seen as a threat to the viability of large scale solar.
The Supreme Court yesterday upheld a challenge by a solar farm developer that appealed against the restrictive new rule.
The government implemented its ‘Electrical Safety (Solar Farms) Amendment Regulation 2019 (Qld)’ in May. Specifically, Section 73A ordered that only licensed electrical workers could locate, fix or mount PV modules in place on projects of 100 kW capacity or more.
Previously, trained labourers and trade assistants could undertake this work.
The government’s amendment to the Act sparked outrage from industry bodies. Many said the unavailability of qualified electricians in remote regions, plus increased cost in wages, were a major blow to the industry.
Ruling good news for regional solar jobs
As a result, the Clean Energy Council (CEC) welcomed yesterday’s decision as a win for solar jobs in regional Queensland.
CEC chief Kane Thornton said dozens of projects could now get under way after months of “chaos and uncertainty.”
He agreed with Justice Bradley that, “requiring licensed electricians to do the work of labourers and trades assistants is inconsistent with the Electrical Safety Act”.
“That’s because it is not electrical work,” Thornton said. In addition, by properly consulting with industry beforehand, the government could have avoided the courts altogether.
He added the sector would continue to work actively with government and stakeholders to ensure worker safety on solar farms.
Queensland solar farm laws decision: Govt ‘disappointed’
In response to the ruling, Queensland Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace will convene an ‘urgent’ industry roundtable to discuss safety on solar farms.
“The Palaszczuk Government accepts today’s decision of the Court of Appeal but is disappointed by the result,”Grace said.
She also rejected claims the government’s amendment to the Electrical Safety Act threatened jobs. Instead, she doubled down on the risk of fire and electrical shock to unlicensed workers on solar farms, the alleged reason for the Queensland solar farm laws.
“Labourers’ jobs were never under threat,” Grace said. “The safety risks for workers installing solar panels on large-scale solar farms are very real.”