CLEAN ENERGY COUNCIL: WHAT DOES THE CEC DO AND HOW?

The Clean Energy Council (CEC) represents leading businesses operating in solar, wind and other renewables, along with more than 4,000 accredited solar installers.

Safety and quality have been a constant focus of the CEC since it was formed in 2007.

Solar panels have been installed on the rooftops of houses and other buildings in Australia since the Seventies. As of June 2016, more than 1.5 million rooftop solar systems had been installed right across Australia, safely and reliably delivering clean electricity to homes and businesses.

According to the Clean Energy Australia Report, renewable energy provided 17.3 per cent of Australia’s electricity in 2016, which was the most of any year this century. This was a significant improvement compared to the previous year, when renewable energy provided 14.6 per cent of Australia’s electricity.

Clean Energy Council accredited (CEC qualified) installer working on Noosa rooftop

Using Clean Energy Council Accredited installer means you are using qualified, authorized tradespeople. Image: Pixabay

The Clean Energy Council promotes awareness and thought leadership for clean energy businesses in Australia. It also regulates the services provided by renewable energy related businesses through a system of endorsement and accreditation.

The CEC has three categories of endorsement covering individual installers, solar PV retailers and other businesses.

  • CEC Membership
  • CEC Approval
  • CEC Accreditation

In this article we examine these categories and what they mean for Australians looking to install solar power systems in their homes or businesses.

Clean Energy Council (CEC) Membership

The first category,  Clean Energy Council Membership, is for businesses only. Becoming a member helps the CEC advocate for an effective policy and market framework for clean energy while promoting the industry and its achievements.

CEC membership is open to any business that has an interest in renewable energy and energy efficiency in Australia.

Companies from all industries – not just solar – can become members. As a CEC member:

  • The member’s industry can be better represented in important clean energy industry discussions;
  • The CEC can better support all businesses that rely on effective renewable energy policies within all levels of government;
  • The CEC can provide you with communications to help you learn more about how the clean energy industry works in Australia; and
  • The member’s business will be well placed to benefit from the growing renewable energy industry in Australia.

There are five categories of CEC membership, with annual fees ranging from $625 to $55,000. The membership categories are:

  • Associate
  • Corporate
  • Sponsorship
  • Network
  • Emerging tech

The first four categories apply to installation and retail businesses. Associate members pay an annual fee of $3,600. Corporate memberships are for businesses that want a greater affiliation with the CEC, including access to working groups. The annual fee is $14,250.

Sponsorship membership is for corporations wanting to fully align themselves with the Clean Energy Council. They have their branding on CEC materials and become members of the CEC Advisory Committee. The annual fee is $55,000.

Network memberships are for single entity businesses involved in solar PV installation. Emerging Tech memberships are for renewable organisations developing pre-commercialised renewable technologies as their primary business. Both have annual fees of $625.

Note that the above prices correct as at July, 2017. For updated price information and updates on CEC Membership including fees click here.

CEC Approval

The CEC Approved Solar Retailer category is for authorized businesses that are signatories to the CEC Solar Retailer Code of Conduct.

The Clean Energy Council website contains a list of Approved Solar Retailers, and there are only 43 CEC Approved businesses in Australia, which includes Energy Matters.

The Code is a voluntary scheme for retail businesses selling solar PV systems. It seeks to oppose unethical sales and installation practices that harm the reputation of the solar PV industry.

An independent Code Review Panel oversees the administration, provides direction for development of the Code and hears appeals of decisions made by the Code Administrator.

Approved Solar Retailers:

  • Provide a 5-year whole of system warranty;
  • Have been vetted to ensure that their directors have not been directors of previously failed companies;
  • Use ethical sales practices as per the Code; and
  • Only use CEC Accredited installers.

The CEC list of Approved Solar Retailers is the first port of call for many customers looking to buy solar from a certified company. In addition, the CEC works closely with governments and buying groups to create exclusive tender opportunities for Approved Solar Retailers.

The CEC Code of Practice is designed to stamp out unethical practices in the industry including:

  • Misleading claims given to consumers regarding the performance of their solar PV system and future electricity bills;
  • Misleading advertising regarding the size of PV systems, the value of available government incentives, and the suitability of the PV system;
  • Retailers not taking responsibility for the whole of the PV system including product warranties and workmanship;
  • Sub-standard installation work; and
  • Retailers not taking responsibility for subcontracted parties acting on their behalf and any parties who generate sales leads utilised by the retailer.

Approved Solar Retailers application process

Being an Approved Solar Retailer means a business complies with consumer protection laws and will back the operation of customer systems well into the future.

Customers can be safe in the knowledge that the supplying business has been through a rigorous screening process and is committed to ethical business practices.

Solar retailers who apply to become Approved Solar Retailers must, in addition to signing the Code, submit to the CEC examples of their standard contracts to customers, warranties, complaints processes, and other systems.

Applicants must agree to an external assessment of their finances, paid for by the CEC, as well as an integrity check on the records of company directors and managers. They must have no relevant history of ACCC/Office of Fair Trading rulings.

Companies that pass the requirements of the Code can promote themselves as Clean Energy Council Approved Solar Retailers. Annual fees for Approved Solar Retailers are $800 to $6,000, depending on the company’s size.

As well as a listing on the Clean Energy Council website, Approved Solar Retailers can display the CEC Approved logo on their promotional material, a recognition of quality that distinguishes the business in the marketplace.

To learn more about the commitments that an Approved Solar Retailer makes see our Clean Energy Council Approved Solar Retailer page.

For updates on CEC Approval including fees click here.

CEC Accreditation

Unlike Memberships and Approvals, accreditation is only available to individual installers and designers. There are now around 4,500 Clean Energy Council accredited installers in Australia.

It is important to note that to be eligible for a Small-scale Technology Certificate (STC), which reduces the upfront cost of installing a solar PV system, the system must be designed and installed by a CEC accredited technician.

However, the advantages of using a Clean Energy Council Accredited installer go beyond their eligibility to apply for government rebates on the customers’ behalf.

As a professional organisation, the CEC stipulates and monitors the qualifications and ongoing learning requirements of accredited installers.

Accredited installers and designers are listed on the Clean Energy Council website. Customers are urged to check their installer/designer is accredited.

Accreditation is given to the qualified solar installer who comes to your home to install your solar system, not the solar PV retailer for whom they are working.

Customers need to get back in contact with the solar PV retailer if they discover that an installer is not on the CEC Accredited list.

Rigorous application process for accreditation

To become a CEC Accredited installer, applicants must go through a rigorous procedure, as outlined below.

  1. Complete the required training through a Registered Training Organisation

The duration and content of the training depends on past experience and qualifications. For example, the installer may have been working in a related industry or as an electrician.

  1. Apply to the Clean Energy Council for a three-month provisional accreditation

This requires copies of training certificates, electrical license (if applying for grid-connect install), working at heights certification and public liability insurance (at least $5 million). The provisional accreditation fee is $190.

  1. Upgrade to full accreditation (one year)

A technical expert approves accreditation after the candidate submits a case study of an installation. If successful, the candidate is accredited for one year, after paying a fee of $500.

  1. Renew and move onto continuous professional development

Each year accredited installers must complete 100 points of eligible training and professional development. This means CEC Accredited installers remain up to date with developments in solar technology, as well as their own skills.

Australian Standards and Compliance

In addition to training, CEC Accredited installers must adhere to Australian Standards. The three main standards are:

  • AS 4509 Stand-alone power systems
  • AS 4086 Secondary batteries for SPS
  • AS/NZS 5033 Installation of photovoltaic (PV) arrays

The CEC has also taken steps to ensure the next generation of accredited installers can also install battery storage systems. At the end of 2012 the CEC introduced a requirement that installers who want to install batteries as part of a grid-connected system must complete additional training.

This training is beyond the requirements for grid-connect accreditation, because the set of risks associated with battery storage are different to those associated with solar power systems.

CEC compliance procedures

The CEC monitors its accredited installers through a system of compliance. Its compliance procedure ensures guidelines and other regulations are followed.

The procedure outlines what will happen when the CEC has evidence that an accredited installer has not followed the relevant standards, accreditation guidelines and/or terms and conditions.

The Clean Energy Council allocates demerit points with the aim of addressing instances of continued non-compliant work. A total of 20 demerit points can be accrued before accreditation is suspended.

The Clean Energy Council takes compliance seriously. In 2015-16 it took action against 107 installers who were required to prove competency, with 14 installers having their accreditation suspended as a result.

For updates on CEC Accreditation including fees click here.

CEC approved products

The Clean Energy Council maintains a list of solar equipment that meets Australian Standards for use in the design and installation of solar PV systems.

It recommends that accredited installers refer to the list before performing an installation. Only systems with products from the approved lists are entitled to Small-scale Technology Certificates (STC).

The CEC also issues warnings and recall notices about products have been found to be faulty.

Visit the Clean Energy Council website for more information about solar PV and the role the council plays in Australia’s clean energy future.

If you need to get a quote on a solar energy system from a business that is fully compliant with all of the Clean Energy Council ‘s standards , then contact Energy Matters now.