Australia’s rooftop solar industry has won a last-minute reprieve, after electrical regulatory authorities agreed to extend the deadline for compliance to complicated new standards for PV inverters by six months.
The new rules, originally due to come in to play on December 18 under broad new inverter standards, had been slammed as potentially disastrous, because they required inverters with integrated DC isolators to be re-tested, re-certified and re-listed in an impossibly short timeframe.
Industry players argued the new requirement was both an “over-reach,” with many affected inverters already compliant with existing local and international standards, as well as unrealistic, with nowhere in the world currently testing or certifying to the new Australian Standard.
And the head of the Australia and New Zealand branches of Fimer – the fourth largest inverter maker in the world – issued a “call to action” on the matter last week, warning of “a dramatic impact on the residential solar industry” that could see “well over half of the solar inverters currently available in the market will no longer be able to [be] installed and registered for STCs.”
Happily, these arguments, calls to action and direct pleas from major bodies including the Clean Energy Council, the Smart Energy Council and Master Electricians Australia, appear to have been heard.
In a statement issued late Tuesday afternoon, the Electrical Regulatory Authorities Council (ERAC) and the Standing Committee of Officials of the Electrical Equipment Safety System (EESS) said verification of compliance with the new standard would not be required until June 30, 2022.
“ERAC and SCO member jurisdictions in Australia acknowledge issues related to DC isolator certification requirements for DC isolators in solar PV inverters incorporating DC isolators,” the statement said.
“Under electrical safety laws of each jurisdiction Solar PV inverters incorporating DC isolators do not require certification to AS/NZS 4777.2:2020 to be able to be sold or installed.
“Verification of compliance to certification of DC isolators installed within solar PV inverters, where the supplier has declared the inverter is compliant to AS/NZS 4777.2:2020, will not be requested by electrical safety regulators until 30 June 2022.”
The CEC welcomed the news in a statement on Tuesday evening as a great example of the industry and regulators working together to safeguard the wellbeing of the solar industry.
“We are incredibly grateful to the Master Electricians Association (MEA) and the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) for their support, and, many thanks also extended to ERAC, EESS SCO, CER and the many state and territory electrical safety regulators who contributed to this resolution,” a statement said.
Fimer’s Venning said the inverter maker welcomed the “sensible and pragmatic decision” by the electrical regulatory authorities was grateful to the solar industry for stepping up to ensure a workable solution.
“In future, we hope there is more consultation with key industry bodies and manufacturers to ensure smooth adoption of new or updated regulatory requirements,” Venning said.
The Smart Energy Council on Monday had flagged a “pragmatic resolution” to the issue was expected some time before the end of the week, “to provide a safe pathway forward for consumers and manufacturers.”
The SEC is holding a webinar for industry at 3.30pm on Wednesday afternoon (registrations here) to “unpick the issue”, explain how it has been resolved and explain what that all means for rooftop solar installers.
In its own statement on the decision, the MEA said safety regulators had “vowed to work with industry, testing facilities, and accredited certifiers” to ensure suitable approved testing facilities were made available for suppliers to get updated certification by June 30 next year.
“Electrical contractors installing solar PV inverters incorporating DC isolators can rely on the supplier declaration of compliance to AS/NZS 4777.2:2020 as evidence the inverter can be installed in accordance with AS/NZS 3000 The Wiring Rules and AS/NZS 5033 Installation and safety requirements for photovoltaic (PV) arrays,” it said.
“It remains the equipment supplier’s responsibility to ensure compliance to relevant safety standards and should any incident occur in any solar PV inverter claimed to be compliant to AS/NZS 4777.2:2020 action will be taken under normal electrical safety regulator investigative processes.”
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