The history of the Clean Energy Council’s accreditation scheme was outlined in this column in the June edition, but with the increased complexity of the solar industry it also makes sense to go through some of the changes this decade in how the scheme is governed.

By Sandy Atkins, Executive General Manager Installation Integrity

The history of the Clean Energy Council’s accreditation scheme was outlined in this column in the June edition, but with the increased complexity of the solar industry it also makes sense to go through some of the changes this decade in how the scheme is governed.

Originally a committee called the Standard, Training and Accreditation (STA) committee had oversight of the accreditation program. This was a group of technical experts who were recognised as some of the leading exponents of the solar industry. In 2012, following the installation boom and the many changes confronting the industry on all fronts, it was decided a new method of governance was required. The solution was to introduce an Installer Reference Group (IRG).

The IRG’s role is to:                                          

  • provide opinions on quality and industry integrity issues as they apply to installers
  • represent the views of installers in policy development where appropriate
  • advise on projects (such as CPD, demerit points, guidelines and so on) and changes to the industry that impact installers. 

This group is made up of:

  • 6 – 8 installers with representatives from a variety of states
  • 4 – 6 industry experts with a background in the PV installation or related industry
  • Clean Energy Council Accreditation personnel.

The group is opened up to new members every year. Currently it has representatives from across the country. The only territory not represented is the ACT. There is a broad cross section of experience, and we have people who are accredited across all the different areas of accreditation e.g. Supervise accredited, Grid Connect, and Stand-alone Power Systems. There is also a representative from the training industry.

The group is required to meet every two months but because we are in the middle of an extraordinarily busy year it has met every month so far.

Some of the key discussions so far have included:

Reducing the length of new accreditations from two years to one year

Previously after someone had successfully met all the accreditation requirements and completed a case study they were given accreditation for two years. In those first two years they were not required to undertake any Continuous Professional Development. As of 1 July 2017 this has been reduced to one year, to ensure that everyone remains up to date with the many changes occurring across the solar industry.

Updating the case study process

The purpose of a case study is for someone who wants to get full accreditation to demonstrate their competence through an example of their best work. We have used the process as a measure of how well they have understood the training and have been able to put it into practise. This process was appropriate when there was really only one way to install a grid-connected system (e.g. using a central inverter) and where AC coupling was not very common in Stand-alone Power Systems. Now there are so many different ways to install systems – through micro inverters, DC optimisers and more – that the case study no longer provides the best way for us to be sure the applicant has all of the competencies that are required.

We have been working with the IRG on new assessment tools to give us the confidence that the installer is competent. The new process is a combination of online tests and a simplified version of the case study process. There will be different tests for designers and installers. We are planning on having this process in place by the end of the year.

New Grid Connect Installation Guidelines and Battery Guidelines

This year the Clean Energy Council has updated both the grid-connect installation guidelines and the battery guidelines. The reason for the changes stem from current issues that are identified in inspection reports and disputes raised by consumers. The group discusses these problems then looks at ways they can be addressed through the guidelines. We then update the guidelines accordingly and then get the group to review the changes to ensure we have captured the intention of the requirement.

With regards to the battery installation guidelines, they are reviewed by the IRG, as well as the CEC members who participate in the Energy Storage Directorate and the Energy Storage Devices Listing Working Group.

The updated battery guidelines will become mandatory on 1 November 2017 for installers who are accredited for battery installations. You can download the new install guidelines from the Solar Accreditation website.

These guidelines reflect the most important clauses of existing battery-related standards (such as AS 4086, AS 3011, AS 2676, AS/NZS 4509 and AS/NZS 4777.1).

Additionally, the guidelines apply to:

  • installing systems operating at both extra-low voltage (ELV) and low voltage (LV)
  • grid-connected and off-grid applications
  • installation of battery systems (up to the terminals of PCEs), and preassembled integrated battery energy storage systems

We held a webinar recently on the updated battery guidelines. It is available for accredited installers to watch in the login area of www.solaraccreditation.com.au

This opinion piece was originally published by ecogeneration on Tuesday 12 September 2017.