Energy Minister Angus Taylor has launched a two-month inquiry into the integrity of the rooftop solar industry.
The Department of Energy and Emissions investigation will also involve the Clean Energy Regulator while focusing on the solar accreditation processes, the integrity of installers, financing practices, and unaccredited operators in the market.
Taylor told AAP on Aug. 25 that the investigation came after integrity issues were raised in a range of recent reports of the rooftop solar sector.
“Australians are world leaders in the uptake of rooftop PV, shown by the uninterrupted strong growth in rooftop solar,” Taylor said.
“Protecting the integrity of a system that has such a wide-ranging impact on Australian households and businesses is a top priority.”
Confirming the news, the peak body for clean energy in Australia, the Clean Energy Council, said in a media statement on Aug. 25 that it welcomed any genuine review into the regulations and oversight in the Australian solar industry.
But the council noted it was worried the move could be politically motivated.
“The Clean Energy Council would be deeply concerned if this became politicised as was the case in 2015 when the Abbott Government initiated a review of the solar industry as part of its campaign to reduce support for renewable energy,” the statement read.
Taylor’s office has said that the inquiry is not about attacking renewables but is an effort to ensure public confidence in the industry after reports of defective installations, non-compliance, and hardball selling tactics.
The Clean Energy Council stated in its media statement that it was driving stricter standards for solar panels and inverters, increased training and support for installers and clamping down on poor behaviour from retailers.
“We are confident that this means the vast majority of solar customers get a good quality solar system that is safely installed,” the statement read.
However, not everyone agrees with the Clean Energy Council’s assessment of the industry.
Industry expert Finn Peacock from the SolarQuotes Blog, and author of “The Good Solar Guide,” told The Epoch Times on Aug. 25 that the industry does have a problem with substandard installation and safety.
Peacock explained that not all solar installation companies are the same, and often those with the cheapest rates are employing lowly-paid sub-contractors who are in a rush to get the job done.
“This is a cut-throat industry with many firms competing to be the lowest-priced,” he said.
“The result is that mistakes get made. I have been told about examples where subcontractors have been so rushed they installed systems on the wrong houses. Not apartments or neighbouring homes, but the wrong house entirely,” Peacock said.
“My fear is though that any solutions found by the government will be a long list of regulations and will miss the obvious solutions,” he noted.
Peacock identified one of the most significant failings in the industry to be the lack of mandated inspections on the solar panels.
“Australia has really good regulations around electrical work and consumer laws,” Peacock argued.
He believed a rigorous independent inspection routine would alleviate most of the issues around sub-standard solar installations.