New rules governing the creation of small-scale technology certificates (STCs) for rooftop solar are hoped to boost the quality of the PV panels installed on Australian homes and businesses, as another nation-wide boom gets underway.
The new rules, announced by the Clean Energy Regulator on Thursday and due to come into play in February 2018, prevent installers from getting additional STCs when they replace faulty or poor quality PV panels on a system that has already been installed, and has already claimed STCs.
Under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme, solar installers have been eligible for as much as $40 per kW in up-front rebates – although this price recently dipped to $26 due to an oversupply in the STC market – on installed residential and commercial PV systems of less than 100kW.
The CER’s new rule change – which is part of a broader crackdown on SRES compliance – is hoped to stop the practice of profiteering from the scheme, where businesses replace “faulty” or poor performing rooftop solar panels with more of the same low-quality products, for a double dip at the STCs.
The practice has been the bane of the industry, with numerous complaints from installers and higher quality solar panel manufacturers over the practice.
It is is also hoped that it will raise the overall standard of the industry, forcing installers to quote more closely in line with the quality of the solar panels they are installing, and to choose more reliable – and reputable – PV panels in the first place.
“The Clean Energy Regulator has developed a new framework to help current and potential solar PV participants to determine their eligibility to participate in the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES),” the Regulator said in a media release on Thursday.
“Systems for which one, some or all panels have been replaced, and have previously received small-scale technology certificates for the entitlement period, will not be eligible to receive additional small-scale technology certificates.
“If you are expanding a system, you may need to replace or upgrade a number of the components of your system to participate in the SRES,” the CER said.
“You should carefully consider your options, and compare the benefits and complete costs of installing a new or expanded system, including factors like electrical wiring upgrades, compliance with current standards, and operating efficiency.
“You should also consider potential impacts on feed-in tariffs for any changes to solar installations on your dwelling. You should contact your electricity retailer, and State or Territory Government, to provide you with further information on the impacts of feed-in tariff eligibility for your system.”
As noted above, the rule changes and updates are part of a broader crack-down by the CER, on an industry many believe has been far too loosely regulated, allowing customers to fall prey to dishonest marketing and low quality – and even non-compliant – solar systems.
In August, Euro Solar – the biggest retailer of solar panels in Australia – was forced by the Regulator to surrender STCs or replace modules after being found to have installed non-compliant solar panels on 10 different rooftop solar installations.
In total, this amounted to 1,058 STCs worth around $40,000, and could balloon to more than $500,000 if modules on a further 78 P & N installations are found to contain non-compliant panels.
“We are rolling out an innovative compliance program that reaches out into the small-scale technology certificate (STC) creation chain to detect the installation of unapproved panels, which are not eligible for STCs,” the CER said at the time.