What is the Clean Energy Regulator?
The CER is the statutory agency that administers the Federal Government’s Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme. The Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator (ORER) formerly administered the scheme and was amalgamated into the CER on 2 April 2012.
The scheme encourages the purchase of solar water heaters, heat pumps, solar panels and small-scale wind, or hydro systems by offering a financial benefit to owners through the creation, assignment and/or sale of small-scale technology certificates (STCs).
The scheme is implemented through the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 (the Act) and the accompanying Renewable Energy (Electricity) Regulations 2001 (the Regulations).
The CER has the power to enforce compliance requirements as listed under the Act and Regulations.
Why is this inspection being conducted?
The CER is required under the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 to conduct inspections on solar panel installations that have had STCs listed against them in the Renewable Energy Certificates (REC) Registry.
Your solar panel installation has therefore been randomly selected from the REC Registry for inspection. The inspectors will complete a comprehensive check of your solar panel installation to ensure that you installation conforms with:
- Applicable Australian Standards and industry guidelines as in force at the time the unit was installed;
- State/Territory and local government requirements; and
- The requirements for the creation of certificates.
What are my rights?
You have the right to:
- Refuse consent for the inspectors to enter your property and conduct the inspection.
- Nominate a representative, such as a family member or friend, to be present for the inspection.
- Ask the inspectors to show you their identity cards.
- Refuse to answer any questions the inspector may ask you related to: the design or installation of the solar panels and the creation of certificates.
- You, or your Nominated Representative, can observe the inspection while it is being carried out.
- Ask the inspectors to leave your property at any stage during the inspection.
- Be informed of the nature and extent of any imminent safety risk to a person or property caused by the small-scale solar panel, wind or hydro system at the time of inspection.
What powers do the inspectors have?
The inspectors have the power to:
- Request consent to conduct an inspection of the solar panel installation on your property.
- Examine and test the solar panels and any wiring or equipment associated with the system.
- Take photographs of anything relevant to the installation.
- Make a video recording of the inspection.
- Access your roof to conduct the inspection.
- Ask you questions related to the design or installation of the solar panels and the creation of certificates.
Will I be advised of the inspection outcome?
On completion of the inspection, the inspector must provide a written report to the CER. If the report contains an adverse finding in relation to a person who designed or installed the solar panels or who created certificates for the unit, the inspector must provide the findings to those persons for an opportunity to comment before finalising and submitting the report.
The inspector must allow the designer, agent and/or installer a reasonable opportunity to comment on the draft inspection report and take account of any comments provided by the person when finalising the report. A reasonable opportunity has been deemed as a minimum 14 days unless otherwise negotiated.
During the inspection, if the inspector considers there to be an imminent safety risk to a person or the property due to the solar panel installation, they must notify all interested parties (the Occupier, the CER, the relevant State and Territory Safety Authority and the relevant distribution Network Service Provider) of the extent and nature of any imminent safety risks.
The CER will provide a copy of the final report to interested parties under Regulation 44. Interested parties are the owner of the unit, the occupier of the premises, the person who created the certificates for the unit, the designer and installer of the unit and in the event of design and installation issues, the relevant State Regulator and the Clean Energy Council.
What happens if an inspector finds a safety risk?
If during the course of the inspection, the inspector finds that the installation presents an imminent safety risk the inspector will immediately do what is needed to make the installation safe. The inspector will undertake this action under the terms of their electrical licence. This may mean that the inspector disconnects or shuts down the system. The inspector will inform you of the nature and extent of the safety risk on the same day. The inspector will also advise the relevant state or territory regulator for electrical safety of the nature and extent of the safety risk.
The inspector has no authority to rectify faults in the installation during the inspection.
State and Territory government regulators are responsible for safe operation of the installation, particularly electrical safety. If an imminent safety risk is found, on the same day of the inspection, the inspector will contact the State or Territory government regulator and the CER to inform them of the nature and extent of the safety risk.
On completion of the inspection, the inspector will prepare a draft inspection report on the inspection that will be sent to the person that created the certificates and the designer and installer. This report will contain more detail on the safety risk and any other non-compliance issues identified during the inspection. These parties are provided the opportunity to make comment on the draft report, and these comments are taken into account when finalising the report.
Dependent on the installation warranty, the installer or related company may return to the installation to rectify the non conformance issues identified in the report.
I am yet to receive a report, what do I do?
After the inspection has been conducted, system owners will receive the final inspection report. System owners can expect the final inspection report to take up to five weeks to compile. This is due to the inspection data firstly requiring review by ITP Renewables, followed by the installer, designer and agent being given the opportunity to provide their comments on the inspection outcomes. Finally the CER review the report before approving it and sending it to relevant stakeholders. If you had an inspection of your PV system more than five weeks ago and you have not yet received your final inspection report, contact the CER for assistance.
The inspection identified issues with the installation of my system, how can I get them fixed?
When addressing issues with your PV system the installer is always the first point of contact. If the inspection report identified issues with your installation the installer should have already been made aware of them when they received the draft report for their right to comment on.
If installers are found to be incorrectly installing PV systems the CER may declare them ineligible to design and install small-scale PV systems for a period of 12 months and may publish this information on the website. As such it is in the installers best interest to rectify any issues with their workmanship so that they may maintain their accreditation as a CER registered solar installer.
If you are not satisfied with the response from your installer, please consult the Clean Energy Council’s Complaints and Disputes web page for an outline of the dispute resolution procedures and advice. This page also shows the relevant state and territory regulators that you can get in contact in regard to concerns with electrical safety, or warranty issues.
Text quoted from Clean Energy Regulator “Inspection of Your Solar Panels” brochure.