The Queensland government is making good on its promise to appeal last week’s Supreme Court ruling that declared its controversial “solar rules” invalid, with the case going to the Court of Appeal in Brisbane on Friday.
Australia’s large-scale solar industry – both ground mounted and rooftop – breathed a sigh of relief on May 30 after the rushed and widely criticised Queensland government solar rule change that had slammed the brakes on the state’s PV development pipeline was overturned by the Supreme Court.
The rule – introduced on May 13 – required only licensed electricians to mount and fix solar panels on projects of 100kW and over. It was pushed by the Electrical Trades Union, and opposed by the Masters Electricians of Australia, and the renewables industry but embraced by industrial relations minister Grace Grace and hailed as “visionary” by energy minster Anthony Lynham.
The case was brought by managers of the ready-to-build 35MW Brigalow Solar Farm in Queensland’s south-east, with the support of the Clean Energy Council and other industry heavyweights.
According to court documents, the new rule would have added around $2.6 million to the Brigalow project’s cost, and would require the hiring of around 60 licensed electricians, in place of local unskilled labourers.
The ruling was also seen as a victory for the 1300MW of new utility solar generation capacity under construction in Queensland in 2019, which – according to CEC estimates – would have required in the order of 580 additional electricians under the amended regulation.
And it was critical for the future of state’s booming commercial solar sector, where the majority of projects are large enough to be affected by the rule.
However, the government indicated almost immediately that it would appeal the decision.
“My department and their legal advisors have reviewed the written judgement overnight and advised me that there are solid grounds for appealing the decision,” Queensland’s minister for industrial relations, Grace Grace, said in a statement last week.
Grace also said the appeal would based on legal technicalities, and had nothing to do with the safety argument – even though that remained the government’s focus.