Regulator to crack down on dodgy claims for solar and carbon offset projects | RenewEconomy

Regulator to crack down on dodgy claims for solar and carbon offset projects

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The Clean Energy Regulator will look to prevent fraudulent claims of solar installs and carbon offset projects, under new enforcement priorities.

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The Clean Energy Regulator will crack down on false claims for renewable energy and carbon abatement permits, as part of an updated set of enforcement priorities published by the agency responsible for the federal Renewable Energy Target and the Emission Reduction Fund.

In its updated compliance and enforcement priorities for the 2020-21 year, the Clean Energy Regulator will look to ensure certificate claims for rooftop solar systems contain correct information, preventing false or fraudulent claims for renewable energy certificates.

“The priorities complement the data driven and risk-based approach to managing compliance in each scheme. The Clean Energy Regulator will use its full suite of compliance and enforcement powers to protect the integrity, and improve outcomes, of the schemes we administer,” the updated compliance and enforcement priorities says.

A spokesperson for the Regulator said that it would take a ‘risk-based’ approach to compliance, focusing efforts on areas where there was a higher risk of incorrect or fraudulent information being provided.

“The CER takes a risk-based approach to managing compliance across our schemes. Our priority is on preventing harm or stopping it as soon as it is identified, and we focus on areas that may pose the greatest risk or harm,” the spokesperson said.

“To assist in determining the appropriate regulatory response, we will (to the extent that we can) consider the behaviours and motivations of scheme participants. The degree of compliance action therefore will be largely determined by the intent or seriousness of the degree of non-compliance, and the impact of the non-compliance on the objectives of the schemes.”

The Clean Energy Regulator has pursued a number of companies and individuals who have made fraudulent claims for renewable energy certificates, which in extreme circumstances has seen individuals making false claims sent to jail, but generally seeks to work with installers and agents to maintain appropriate levels of compliance.

“The CER has a range of tools to respond to non-compliance, including incorrect information, and one of these is to accept an enforceable undertaking which may include corrective action,” a spokesperson for the Clean Energy Regulator said.

“For example, one industry participant provided incorrect information in relation to the eligibility of solar panels in the SRES and has agreed to remedy this, at their own expense, through the enforceable undertaking.”

The regulator will continue to encourage installers and agents to use its Solar Panel Validation Apps and Verification Services, developed in collaboration with a number of solar panel and inverter supplies, which provides added data verification.

There were around 350,000 installations of rooftop solar or solar hot water systems in 2019 under the Small Scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) administered by the regulator, with more than 130,000 additional installations already in 2020, requiring the regulator to process a large amount of information from a large number of installers and agents.

“The Solar Panel Validation Apps and Verification Services make it easier for our scheme participants to collect accurate information to support their claims under the SRES. Almost 60% of all claims for Commonwealth entitlements under the SRES are now using SPV to access our fast-track processing pathway,” the spokesperson said.

“This allows the Regulator to focus our compliance efforts on claims not supported by SPV as these pose a higher risk to the scheme. The Regulator plans to roll out additional initiatives during the year which will further strengthen data integrity.”

Additionally, under the Emissions Reduction Fund, the Clean Energy Regulator will target project proponents who provide inaccurate or late reports when claiming Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs), as well as ensuring projects that are undertaking native forest revegetation adhere to specified guidelines.

The Clean Energy Regulator spokesperson told RenewEconomy that Emissions Reduction Fund participants were generally engaged with compliance responsibilities, but there had been some need to address situations where incorrect information had been provided.

“The CER’s strategies (such as education) to help scheme participating to understand their obligations has resulted in participants who are generally active, engaged and compliant,” the spokesperson said.

“However, there are some participants who fail to comply and the CER is continually improving our capability through enhanced data matching and analysis to detect non-compliance.”

The Clean Energy Regulator will also look to ensure Emissions Intensive Trade Exposed (EITE) entities, generally large industrial electricity users that receive an exemption under the Renewable Energy Target, continue to provide reliable and accurate data.

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