Australia’s Clean Energy Regulator has taken the unusual step of disqualifying a rooftop solar installer, after he was caught out breaking the one of the most important rules of installation under the federal government’s rebate scheme.
The CER says that between February 01, 2022, and August 05, 2022, Clean Energy Council (CEC) accredited installer David Coulthard provided written statements claiming he was the accredited installer or supervisor of 12 solar system installations.
But the statements were found to be false, after the CER discovered Coulthard had not been on-site for any of the installations he claimed to have supervised.
As a result, Coulthard has been declared ineligible to install solar systems under the SRES for 12 months, and any systems installed by him during this period will not be eligible for the rebate’s Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs).
“This is the first time that the CER has exercised the additional powers to disqualify an installer since amendments to the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Regulations 2001 came into force,” the regulator said in an emailed statement on Friday.
The major tightening of the rules around the retail and installation of rooftop solar systems in Australia – aimed at weeding out shonky operators and poorly installed or unsafe systems – was announced in late 2021, following a major industry review.
One of the key rule changes requires CEC accredited installers to be at the site of a rooftop solar job during setup, installation and commissioning – and to provide evidence of compliance by way of “selfie photographs.”
Essentially, the rule aims to ensure that the person ultimately responsible for the safety and quality of the installation is on site when needed and not, say, in another country – as was the case with this Canberra installer, who was caught out, fined and stripped of accreditation in 2022.
In Coulthards’s case, the CER says it has considered the nature of the offending alongside his cooperation throughout the investigation in deciding that pursuing court action was not an appropriate response in this instance.
A 12-month ban from the rebate scheme is instead hoped to serve as both a consequence for Coulthard and as another warning to the broader industry that rules must be followed.
“We [have] used website updates, webinars, emails and spoke directly with industry participants to make it clear that those who did not comply with their obligations would see action taken against them,” the CER said on Friday.
“To be eligible for STCs the accredited installer must install or physically attend the site during job set up, mid-installation check-up and testing and commissioning.
“The CER will not tolerate those who are unwilling to do the right thing.”