In Australia, solar panel installers must have the appropriate qualifications and accreditations from the Clean Energy Council (CEC) to qualify for the solar rebate provided by the government.
The CEC is an independent organization that oversees the rebate scheme and ensures that installers are up to date with the latest developments in the renewable energy industry through regular training and accreditation.
In addition to CEC accreditation for on-grid residential systems, there are qualifications for designing solar systems and installing off-grid systems, which are freestanding and include a battery component.
The Approved Solar Retailer program is another scheme run by the CEC that requires participating companies to follow a consumer-oriented sales process and adhere to a code of conduct. In addition, using a Your Energy Answer Authorized Partner is recommended for reliable and trustworthy solar panel installation and other renewable energy services.
The qualifications your solar installer needs
In Australia, we’re probably a bit more rigorous regarding the accreditation a solar installer needs than in many other countries.
To support solar and grow its use, the Australian Government introduced a solar rebate in 2007. The only people who can achieve the solar rebate are installers with appropriate qualifications and accreditations from the Clean Energy Council (CEC). The Clean Energy Council is independent and not part of the Government.
The Government has appointed the CEC to oversee the rebate scheme. That means only an installer with the appropriate accreditation can install a solar system that attracts a rebate. There is no other body that undertakes the CEC’s role.
This means a sole trader or business selling the solar system must have an electrical license in NSW and ACT. However, the company does not need an electrical permit for Western Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, and Victoria, allowing them to outsource the installation to a subcontractor.
An electrician without CEC accreditation can not gain the solar rebate
A non-CEC-accredited, average electrician can install a solar system, but then the customer of a plan established by the non-accredited electrician will not get the refund. While the rebate amount changes, depending on the design size for the most common solar system in 2022, this panel rebate is at least $2000.
So what does this accreditation mean? First, it means that that particular installer has to regularly undergo some CEC-organised or approved training which then attracts accreditation points, called CDP points.
Every year the installer has to accumulate a certain number of accreditation points to continue their CEC registration. This system ensures that installers are up to speed with the latest developments in this fast-changing renewable energy industry.
Unfortunately, using an installation company with CEC accreditation alone does not guarantee a quality installation. This is because we have had cases where people with meagre qualifications installed the system, and then a qualified person falsely signed off on the job as if they undertook the work.
The one person with the appropriate accreditation and signs off has never been on the job, has never done the job, does not know the job details, and pretends they were involved.
The Clean Energy Regulator is now working to stamp out this practice via photographic timestamped evidence during the various installation phases and other checkpoints.
There are more solar qualifications
When it comes to qualifications in solar – there are others, then the on-grid residential CEC accreditation. While the CEC accreditation qualifies the person to install a solar system, there is also a qualification to be a solar system designer. Designing the solar system and installing the system are two different jobs; you have to have two additional capabilities.
Then there is another accreditation, which is the one for off-grid systems with no connection to the grid, and that type of solar system is entirely freestanding. But, of course, these systems have to have a battery component as well.
So I argue that the off-grid qualifications are more demanding regarding technical knowledge than just the regular residential accreditation, as solar and battery installations can be more technically challenging – than solar only.
Therefore, if the installer you consider engaging has all three qualifications, they know their stuff.
What is the Approved Solar Retailer Program?
Finally, there’s another initiative organised by the Clean Energy Council, known as the Approved Solar Retailer Program. Participants in this scheme promise to the CEC that they’ll follow a sales process that’s focused on the consumer’s best interest. This means a sales firm displaying this logo has been checked by the Clean Energy Council and found to be trustworthy. In principle, it’s a great concept as not all solar sales companies operate with the same level of integrity.
However, some reputable installation companies have chosen not to participate in this program because they believe it’s just a way for the Clean Energy Council to generate revenue. There have also been instances where companies successfully met the initial criteria to become program members but failed to carry out all the necessary measures, so the program then actually endorses company’s with a stamp of excellence – when they actually do the wrong thing.
So again, buyers, beware, just because they’re an approved solar retailer doesn’t necessarily mean they will do all the right things. Read our article here on what questions you should be asking your solar installer:
Undertake your research, talk to someone who used this company, check their Google reviews, and ask the tough questions, as outlined in our other FAQs.
So, in summary – having an accredited installer doesn’t mean the system will be top quality. Instead, what you would look at is the company itself. Are they a local company? Have they been around for a long time? Do they custom design your system, or are you getting a carbon copy job?