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From installers to rooftops: supporting Australian solar

Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton recently appeared on Just Another Solar Podcast to discuss the state of the solar sector in Australia

What is the state of the solar industry in Australia? How is the Clean Energy Council (CEC) supporting solar installers? How does the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme need to change to better support the industry if extended?

Recently, CEC Chief Executive Kane Thornton appeared on Just Another Solar Podcast to address these and many more questions.

Sector complexities

After an introduction detailing the CEC and where it started, as well as addressing some criticisms, the conversation turned to how the CEC is supporting the industry through its work on the New Energy Tech Consumer Code (NETCC) and accreditation programs.

“Development of the NETCC came about when government said ‘yes, this is what we need for the solar industry, but now we want this to be expanded out to the hot water industry, to EV chargers, to other new energy technologies,” said Thornton. “Because this is a measure that allows us to recognise better behaviour from retailers and to be able to exclude retailers that don’t meet those standards. We see it as critical that there be a scheme that improves the behaviour of retailers in the industry.”

At the CEC we’re proud of the role we have played in building robust installer and product accreditation programs, which form part of the critical regulatory framework that helps drive better behaviour from industry and ensure customers are treated fairly and honestly.

While the CEC very much intends to continue in its product accreditation role, we have not applied to continue our role in administering the installer accreditation program, assuming there is another body which can perform this important but arduous task. But our strong support for installers continues regardless in the form of the myCEC program, a subscription service providing technical support, learning resources, business benefits and much more. These are all critical to support installers in understanding and navigating the growing complexity and demands on them as they install systems. The reality is that we need more installers and myCEC is designed to encourage and support them in the industry.

“myCEC is a service to support people, accredited installers and others, to be on top of all the complexity, to access quality training materials, to get toolbox talks, understand the latest developments,” said Thornton. “We’re going to continue to do that regardless, whether we’re the accrediting body for installers or not.”

Accelerating the transition

After dealing with the complexities of the solar industry, the podcast moved on to the maturity of the sector in Australia, and the challenges facing the clean energy transition.

“On one level, it’s an incredibly challenging time,” said Thornton. “We’re living through the legacy of the last 10 or 15 years, the climate wars, a lost decade of a lack of planning. But on another level, the world has woken up to the challenge. It’s the first time Australia has had wall-to-wall governments who see the importance of renewables and are working hard to solve the problems. There are a lot of challenges, but we can be optimistic. We’re part of the sector that’s having the greatest possible impact on electricity prices and the climate change catastrophe.

“When the CEC was established, it was on the basis that we were creating one powerful voice. Standing here today, I think there’s a lot of strengths and merit to having 1,000-plus member companies, 9,000 accredited installers, and several thousand retailers coming together in an organisation that can roll up its sleeves and get stuck into some of the really big challenges.”

These are some highlights from a fantastic hour-long discussion. Click here to listen to the episode in full and stay tuned to the CEC for updates on the solar sector in Australia and clean energy more broadly.