Ever been to a restaurant which had glowing reviews only to be disappointed? Now what if something similar happened when you purchased a solar power system? Since appearances can be deceiving, it can be very hard to determine who to trust and who to avoid.
Unfortunately, many consumers have fallen prey to deceitful tactics and ended up with solar power systems that failed way too soon. Panels breaking, fly-by-night installers going out of business, poor or non-existent after-sales service, all have unfortunately become common occurrences.
The term CEC accredited has become synonymous with quality and reliability. But, just how does accreditation work and does it really mean complete reliability? Even though the CEC does go above and beyond to protect consumers, it’s best to know how accreditation works and what its limitations are.
A Quick Primer on CEC’s Accreditation Process
The Clean Energy Council, or CEC is the apex body that creates and issues policies and guidelines related to solar, hydro, marine, wind, geothermal, bioenergy, energy efficiency and cogeneration. The CEC’s mandate is to promote and protect the nascent renewable energy technologies through events, debate, and favorable government policies.
The CEC divides solar accreditations into two groups: solar installers and solar products. Any solar panel manufacturer who intends to sell in Australia needs to have its products AS/NZS5033 certified. Installers on the other hand, need to fulfill 6 criteria in order to earn a CEC badge:
Complete basic training: An installer first needs to undertake a course for the type of accreditation they are interested in. These can be done through a Registered Training Organization (RTO).
Get provisional accreditation: Once the installer has earned the required units needed for their accreditation, they can apply for provisional accreditation.
For this, they will need to submit a copy of their training certificate, a public liability insurance of at least $5 million, their electrical license, working safely at heights certificate (for grid connected systems).
Complete online assessments: The CEC then conducts its own assessment tests through its online portal. The contractor has 30 days to complete the test upon which they receive their accreditation number.
Undertake a practical installation assessment: Contractors who wish to carry out solar power system installations need to complete another step. To complete this process, the installer will need to submit the documentation of their first installation before their provisional certificate expires (in three months).
Annual renewal of accreditation: Once the installer has received their accreditation number, they can advertise it and use it in their business concerns. However, each accreditation is only valid for one year.
Installers will need to go for the CEC’s Continuous Professional Development (CPD) program through which they can update their skills and renew their accreditation. The installer must earn 100 CPD points in order to pass the yearly renewal.
But, How Does All This Help You?
While the CEC’s process is pretty thorough, consumers must pay heed to the installers they are doing business with as well. For instance, last year the CEC found that some accredited installers were falsifying paperwork to claim Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs). As a result, the CEC cancelled 33 licenses in 2020.
Likewise, some solar installations in Victoria passed inspection even though they really shouldn’t have. While most CEC accredited solar installers mean business, the list also consists of some really bad ones as well, which leaves the consumer hanging in doubt.
The CEC is responding in kind. The apex body came out with the Approved Solar Retailer program that aims to lift the standards of solar installations and consumer service through the Solar Retailer Code of Conduct. Retailers and installers can voluntarily opt into the program to showcase their dedication to customer service.
A slew of new legislations are also in the works that aim to kick unscrupulous solar installers out of the market as soon as they are discovered. The reforms are suggested by Clean Energy Regulator (CER) and will make the following revisions to existing norms when they come into effect:
- A new reporting requirement whereby installers will be required to provide a written guarantee that the system will perform as per the quoted contract.
- If a system doesn’t perform as advertised, or if an installer refuses service/provides a bad service, then they may have their license revoked.
- Installers who sign for solar installations they didn’t personally attend will be charged with fraud.
- Senior officials of large installers can be barred from the solar industry if installations they oversaw perform poorly.
- Consistent, ongoing review of buy now, pay later schemes.
- Educational campaigns to help consumers get a better understanding of how to navigate a solar purchase.
We Got You Covered
At bidmysolar™, we get that solar can be daunting, it’s why we exist. Our advanced vetting process ensures only the best, most trusted installers get to bid on your project.
We’re also with you every step of the way, from designing the system using advanced, proprietary software and satellite mapping to help you get the best possible results.