Australia’s Clean Energy Regulator has small-scale technology certificate non-compliance in its sights again, this time using what it describes as a “sophisticated analytical model” to catch out Clean Energy Council accredited installers making false STC statements or claims.
The federal government body said on Wednesday that it had established a special taskforce to scrutinise STC claims submitted by registered agents, to ensure compliance with eligibility requirements.
The CER said the taskforce would use the above-mentioned analytical model to identify solar installers deemed unlikely to have been on-site in accordance with CEC requirements, and would then commence investigations based on that model.
Under the rules of the federal Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme, for a rooftop solar system to be eligible for STCs – certificates that act as a form of currency and can be traded to recoup a portion of the cost of a system – it must be installed, or its installation physically supervised, by a CEC accredited installer.
To create STCs, registered agents must obtain a written statement from the CEC accredited installer that they have complied with the CEC’s code of conduct and therefore conformed with install and supervise guidelines.
Of course, few such schemes are tamper proof, and the SRES is no exception. The CER has over the years reported action against numerous solar installation companies for non-compliance and fraud, including for the misuse of CEC accredited installer details.
As rooftop solar uptake has boomed in Australia, the Regulator has geared up its “zero tolerance” approach to the fraudulent creation of STCs – not only to prevent the scheme from being undermined, but to protect consumers from shonky installers and systems.
In its statement this week, the CER said it would increase its scrutiny by requiring agents to provide the documents they relied on to create STCs; including documents demonstrating that the CEC accredited installer named in the claim was on-site and met requirements.
Where those documents were not provided, the CER said it could refuse to register the related STCs, while agents who failed to follow installation requirements risked having their registration and REC Registry account suspended, or exposing themselves to criminal prosecution or civil action.
In early 2020, the regulator suspended the REC Registry accounts of companies – the Community Energy Group Pty Ltd, Space Solar Service Pty Ltd, and P and N NSW Pty Ltd – for the misuse of CEC accredited installer details and use of non-approved panels.
The year before, a Brisbane plumber was sentenced to four-and-a-half years’ jail for falsely claiming to have installed more than 400 solar heat pumps, which are also eligible for STCs.