Building a better Solar Homes program

A central objective of the Solar Homes program is the delivery of quality solar PV and hot water systems and that improvements are made as new technologies become available.

Over time, there will be a need to advise industry of upcoming changes to approved products lists so retailers and installers are aware of changes that affect them and their customers.

The ‘Notice to Market’ has a focus on improving quality, safety and industry development and is part of a ‘Technology Roadmap’ which will be updated throughout the Solar Homes program.

With a view to Victoria’s future energy needs, the ‘Notice to Market’ sets out the mandatory eligibility (and recommended) requirements for the Solar Homes program and will be an important part of raising the bar for Victoria’s solar industry and providing community confidence.

Why is the range of products available for the Solar Homes program being narrowed?

There is a need for a higher standard of solar installations so consumers, and the wider community, get longer term benefits from its solar investment.

The new requirements generally exceed current industry requirements and will improve safety, performance, quality, and consumer protection standards for the program.

The Notice to Market also reiterates existing requirements for products, installers and retailers under the program. The new product requirements will be effective from 1 July 2019.

From 1 July 2019 all installations must comply with the requirements specified in Solar Victoria's Notice to Market.

What are the main changes?

The Notice to Market introduces two additional requirements for solar photovoltaic (PV) inverters. The first provides more strict testing of PV inverters so they do not remain live (or ‘islanded’) in the event of blackout (in line with international standard IEC 62116). It provides enhanced safety protection for consumers and people working on lines if there is a blackout and solar generation is continuing.

The second requirement will help distribution networks accommodate higher levels of solar PV penetration in the future, by requiring new capabilities of inverters. These ‘Volt-VAr’ and ‘Volt-Watt’ response modes help maintain network voltage within correct levels while allowing solar electricity to be exported.

These requirements are mandated in South Australia and south-west Western Australia and are consistent with the Federal Government’s Small-Scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES).

The Notice to Market also communicates recommended requirements for solar workers to hold ‘Work Safely at Heights’ certification and White Card training. These recommended requirements signal to industry criteria that are likely to be mandatory in the future.

What effect will this Notice to Market have on industry?

As of mid-February 2019, more than 95% of solar PV installations under the Victorian Solar Homes program already complied with all of the new mandatory product requirements.

What happens if an installer has a stockpile of inverters that don’t meet the new requirements after 1 July?

The Notice to Market is being communicated to provide advance notice to installers of upcoming changes. Installers should speak to their suppliers if they still hold excess stocks of non-compliant inverters after 1 July.

Won’t this push up prices for consumers?

The Solar Homes program is about giving Victorians more control over their energy costs, however that does not mean the program will support a ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of price or quality.

With domestic and commercial solar installations fast becoming an important part of the energy network, the ability of the grid to deal with an influx of solar energy is a significant issue.

Utility companies have a responsibility to ensure the network is not put at risk from equipment of poor standard. The new Solar Homes requirements helps utility companies to achieve this.

The new Solar Homes requirements for solar workers aims to increase safety standards for the installation industry and meet existing OHS requirements. Working at height is a high-risk activity and a leading cause of serious injury in Australian workplaces. Completion of specific working at heights and white card training are risk control measures.

When will the requirements for batteries be announced?

The government has announced that there will be rebate program for batteries to be used with existing solar PV systems. Requirements for the battery rebate are being developed for launch in mid-2019.

Will there be further changes to the approved products lists?

The Solar Homes program is keen to ensure high standards remain in place across the 10 years of its operation. This includes ensuring higher quality systems are part of program and that lesser quality systems are removed. Industry will be given several months’ notice of any changes. As new technologies come onto the market, older ones will be removed.

All future elements of the Technology Roadmap will continue to be informed by extensive, regular industry consultation on new developments in products and technology.

From 1 July 2019 all installations must comply with the requirements specified in Solar Victoria's Notice to Market.

How can installers prepare for the future?

Solar Victoria is developing a Technology Roadmap which will identify eligibility criteria to be progressively raised over time.

This will ensure products supported by the Solar Homes program remain fit for purpose, offer the highest standards in safety, quality, and consumer benefit and align with the broader strategy of the government to support future changes to the energy network.

The first version of the Technology Roadmap will be published in 2019 after the release of an issues paper for comment, and a stakeholder engagement process.

The Technology Roadmap will be updated regularly throughout the Solar Homes program to incorporate broader developments in the energy sector and ensure continual alignment to the State Government’s energy policies.

What consultation has there been to develop the Notice to Market?

The Notice to Market has been developed with input from a range of stakeholders including distribution network service providers, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), hardware manufactures and technology providers, industry associations / peak industry bodies, regulators, research and innovation organisations and agencies (including universities and CSIRO); the Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning’s Energy division.

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