Sydney solar industry cautiously resumes, as VIC and SA restrictions are further eased

After a challenging couple of weeks, it’s heartening news for the NSW solar industry—construction work, including rooftop solar and battery installations, will tentatively resume in Greater Sydney from July 31.

Yesterday, the Smart Energy Council (SEC) confirmed what solar businesses across the state have been waiting to hear—that solar and battery installations will resume on Saturday 31 July, albeit with a new set of safety conditions in place.

Specifically, the conditions outline that works in occupied premises including residential homes can resume where there is zero contact between workers and residents. There will be a maximum of up to two workers for indoor services and five workers for outdoor services. If contactless arrangements between workers and residents are not possible, work cannot go ahead.

Unfortunately eased restrictions do not apply to all parts of Greater Sydney. Work cannot resume in the eight LGAs of concern – Fairfield, Blacktown, Cumberland, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Liverpool, Parramatta and Georges River Local Government Areas.

In these LGAs, the SEC stressed that solar and battery storage work is not permitted and workers cannot leave their respective LGAs unless they are authorised workers and satisfy COVID-19 testing requirements.

John Grimes, SEC chief, disclosed that the SEC has been actively engaging with the highest levels of the NSW government as advocates for the state’s solar industry. While he is pleased with the outcome, he ensured that the seriousness of the current covid-situation is still front-of-mind.

“We are extremely conscious of the risks from the Delta variant but we are also confident the solar and battery storage industry can operate in a COVID-safe manner,” said Grimes.

“We know the Sydney lockdown is really hurting solar workers and businesses. Do not leave your house unless you absolutely have to.”

Workers across the state are also being encouraged to get vaccinated in a bid to regain some normality longer-term.

What are the current restrictions in Victoria and South Australia?

Meanwhile in Victoria, the Andrews government has further eased restrictions to permit indoor and rooftop installations on occupied premises to recommence under specific conditions. These conditions include following COVIDSafe plans, wearing face masks at all times and social-distancing.

Door-to-door sales activity can recommence, however will be banned under the Solar Homes Program from 1 September 2021. A face mask must be worn at all times and social distancing must be maintained. For full details on the conditions, visit Solar Victoria.

In South Australia, solar and battery installations are listed as an Unrestricted Activities, exempt from many of the requirements of the Public Activities Direction however may still be subject to some including contact tracing, wearing of masks, and ‘stay at home’ restrictions.

NSW Solar and COVID: Frequently Asked Questions

What are the current restrictions?

From Monday 12:01am on 19 July 2021, solar installation work in Greater Sydney including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour, is not to be carried out unless the work is urgently required. Solar installers can continue any installation currently in progress, but only to the point it can be made safe and secure—then all work must cease.

Update: From Saturday 31 July, works in occupied premises including residential homes can resume where there is zero contact between workers and residents. Limit of  two workers for indoor services and five workers for outdoor services.

Work cannot resume in Fairfield, Blacktown, Cumberland, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Liverpool, Parramatta and Georges River Local Government Areas. In these LGAs, work is not permitted and workers cannot leave their respective LGAs unless they are authorised workers and satisfy COVID-19 testing requirements.

What Support and Resources are Available?

Financial Assistance

The NSW Government is providing financial assistance, support measures and tax relief to help businesses impacted by the current COVID-19 restrictions. For solar businesses, support measures may include COVID-19 Business Grants, JobSaver and COVID-19 Micro Business Grants. See the COVID-19 Support Package page on the NSW Government website for further details.

Wellbeing Support

It goes without saying that this is a stressful time for both business owners and their employees. There is no shame in seeking help when navigating these difficult emotions.

The following organisations have produced information on how best to look after your mental health and cope with stress related to COVID-19:

How Can I Run a COVIDsafe Solar Business?

To ensure you have all the necessary measures in place to recommence business in a COVIDsafe manner, the Clean Energy Council has compiled a list of precautions to take to ensure you and your customers stay safe. You can view the guidelines here.

Resources and guidance on how to complete a COVID-19 Safety Plan can be found here.

The team at Energy Matters will be keeping its finger on the pulse to bring you the latest, most accurate updates on COVID news for the solar industry in NSW and the rest of Australia as it is announced. If you haven’t already, subscribe to our weekly newsletter here to receive updates directly to your inbox.

*The information in this article was accurate as of July 28, 2021 and is subject to change