Warning of deaths over solar panel installations
The heavy lifter at The Australian, Simon Benson has addressed several safety problems with solar panels. It follows the ugly and incompetent path of Labor’s brain-fart, pink bats in more ways than one. The serious matter for all firefighters whether rural, town or state brigades are rooftop panel installations without reachable from the ground circuit breakers and other safety concerns mentioned by Mr Benson in his article. The lure of government money and greater profit by cutting corners, as it was with pink bats, creates a lethal environment, as it was with pink bats.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor has written to his state counterparts to warn that lives could be at risk from unsafe or sub-standard solar panel installations, with a national audit report finding up to one-quarter of all rooftop units inspected posed a severe or high risk.
Source: News Corp
The national audit of the Renewable Energy Target has revealed that between 21 and 26 per cent of small-scale rooftop solar installations inspected every year since 2011 had been found to have faulty wiring and unsecured panels. Some posed a “severe risk” where wiring was exposed. This required units to be shut down immediately and remediated.
A total of 35 licensed installation contractors have been warned they face the possibility of suspension. Mr Taylor last week wrote to state and territory energy ministers, who have responsibility for the electrical safety of installations, warning that lives could be at risk if measures were not taken to address dodgy installers.
Demand for qualified installers has ballooned to meet the 20 per cent year-on-year growth in uptake of the units by households. More than two million solar panel units have been installed in homes across Australia.
“I’ve written to every state and territory minster highlighting the severity of the issue … we want to make sure safety comes first,” Mr Taylor told The Australian. “This is a rapidly growing industry and we can’t risk people’s lives.”
It is understood state and territory energy minsters refused to have the issue put on the agenda of a Council of Australian Governments energy council meeting yesterday.
In his letter, Mr Taylor noted the growth in uptake of rooftop solar was 20 per cent a year, with capacity growing at 50 per cent a year. “This level of growth will bring many new electricians to the industry and potentially a large number of inexperienced workers, and may also attract lower quality suppliers and unscrupulous operators,” he said.
“This may give rise to consumer issues and pose risks to worker safety during installation, and electrical and building safety following installation.
“I encourage you to consider the potential risks associated with the rapid growth of rooftop solar PV in your jurisdiction, and to take appropriate action to ensure safety and consumer risks are appropriately managed.”
While the subsidies are administered by the federal government under the small-scale renewable energy scheme, which is part of the Renewable Energy Target, state and territory governments have responsibility for installation compliance through their safety regulators.
The CER, which has already provided information to state health and safety regulators, is understood to be preparing reports to alert workplace safety regulators and the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission about its concerns.
The Australian National Audit Office yesterday recommended that the regulator investigate whether there was a “systemic electrical safety risk” with small-scale generators. It noted that the number of “unsafe” units had fallen in 2016-17 but had begun to rise again this year.
The concerns have echoes of the Rudd government’s Home Insulation Scheme that led to the deaths of four people largely because of the poor training of installers in trying to meet the significant uptake by households.
The audit office said that from 2011 to mid-August, an average of 24,000 units had been inspected each year. It noted that compliance standards had become increasingly more stringent.
“Between 21.7 and 25.7 per cent of inspected installations were rated as ‘unsafe’ or ‘sub-standard’ each year, with the exception of 2012 and 2013 when lesser proportions — 17.6 and 12.1 per cent, respectively — were so rated,” it said.
The report said 80 per cent of “unsafe” installations were due to water getting into direct current isolator enclosures on rooftops, which created an electrical safety risk.
Unsafe installations, defined as carrying a “severe risk”, also included exposed live wiring and rooftop panels not being secure.
For installations to receive a commonwealth subsidy, they must comply with the safety regulations.
The small-scale renewable energy scheme covers wind turbines, hydro systems, solar water heaters and air source heat pumps but the inspections were confined to solar photovoltaic (PV) panels.
The report said more than 320,000 small-scale systems were installed in the first eight years of the Renewable Energy Target scheme, which was established in 2001.
This accelerated to 580,000 in the following two years.
Since the Gillard government split the scheme in two, installations have averaged 286,000 a year.
The CER, in response to questions from The Australian, said it was an economic regulator overseeing compliance of the scheme.
“Electrical safety is the responsibility of state and territory electrical safety regulators who are responsible for enforcement and administration of relevant standards and requirements,” a CER statement said.
“They receive copies of the inspection reports where any unsafe or substandard matters are identified and we provide them with milestone reports on trends.
“Questions regarding whether inspection results provide a cause for concern with electrical safety should be directed to relevant state and territory electrical safety regulators.”
The report raised questions about the failure to suspend the licences of any installers found not to have complied with safety standards.
A key recommendation from the report was for the CER to “assess the extent to which its renewable energy target scheme data shows any residual systemic electrical safety risks for small generation units installed under the scheme and inform those stakeholders in the best position to effect further treatments”.