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Industry and Consumer Reference Group

Primary campaign image For industry
Primary campaign image For industry

Solar Victoria established its first Industry and Consumer Reference Group (ICRG) in October 2019.

The ICRG provides input on the effective delivery of the Solar Homes Program, including the sustainable development of the solar industry in Victoria. 

 

Solar Victoria is committed to working closely with consumers and industry throughout the life of the Solar Homes Program – a 10-year, $1.3 billion commitment to help Victorians take control of their energy costs by offering rebates on the installation of solar PV, solar hot water systems and solar batteries on their homes. 

Solar Victoria will be working closely with consumers and industry throughout the life of the program. The Industry and Consumer Reference Group (ICRG) provides advice to Solar Victoria and the Victorian Government on the effective delivery of the Solar Homes Program, making sure it delivers on its goals and supports the sustainable development of the solar industry in Victoria. 

Former CEO of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, Ivor Frischknecht, is the independent chair of the ICRG. 

Members have been selected to provide diversity from a range of small, medium and large businesses, different backgrounds and from metropolitan and regional areas. Organisation representatives are nominated by their organisation, and industry representatives are appointed by the CEO of Solar Victoria through an Expression of Interest process. 

ICRG members meet regularly to provide advice on: 

  • safety and quality matters, and associated standards 
  • consumer protections and customer experiences 
  • technology requirements 
  • future grid requirements 
  • skills and workforce development 
  • product stewardship. 

Outcomes from the Solar Victoria Industry and Consumer Reference Group

  • The ICRG meeting held on 31 March 2021 covered the following:

    Update on Licensed Electrical Inspectors (LEIs)

    Paul Corkill, Director of Risk, Assurance and Standards, updated the group on the findings and next steps from two roundtables held in conjunction with Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) with LEIs and with industry representatives on 17 and 19 March respectively.

    The barriers to LEIs inspecting new solar installations were discussed. A range of possible causes were identified, including information on specific inspection requirements for solar installations, dedicated training for new LEIs and working at heights risks for solar inspections. Solar Victoria and ESV will work to implement the following steps:

    • promote the findings from the Solar Victoria safety and quality audit program and explore further engagement with LEIs directly
    • work with ESV on finalising an LEI inspection checklist
    • develop new LEI training material and implement at pilot to support new LEI entrants and up-skill LEIs to undertake solar installations through dedicated solar training
    • work with LEI representatives on next steps to address barriers in the LEI regime, and identify demand for new LEIs to support solar sector in future years and to consider enticements to attract new entrants.
    • Members appreciated the efforts of SV to take the lead to identify and implement practical actions to address the immediate and long-term LEI inspection shortages.

    Voice of the Customer

    Grant Johnston, Director of CX Strategy and Insights, presented insights to the ICRG collected through Solar Victoria’s customer survey ‘Voice of the Customer’ framework.

    Insights from customers indicate:

    • a high level of satisfaction amongst respondents, with an increase in satisfaction across all metrics since December 2019
    • uploading documents on the Solar Victoria portal is now the primary pain point in the customer experience since other concerns have been addressed
    • reducing energy costs is the primary reason households are installing solar
    • reducing a home’s carbon footprint was the second reason and taking control of their energy bills was the third reason for installing solar
    • 70 per cent would not have installed solar unless there was a rebate
    • 31 per cent would not have taken up rebate unless a loan option was available.

    Members were pleased with the initiative and keen to see customer insights on customers experience with solar retailers.

    Advertising showcase

    Marianne Doyle, Director of Communications, informed the Group that a new advertising campaign will be rolled out over the coming months via the Solar Victoria website, social media platforms and radio.

    Concerns of unscrupulous sales tactics using these materials will be monitored through the Solar Victoria Risk Assurance and Safety Framework.

  • February’s ICRG meeting touched on several pressing issues that are currently impacting the broader solar industry and customers. 

    Licensed Electrical Inspectors

    Members raised concerns about the delays in system inspections by Licensed Electrical Inspectors, noting that some installations from as far back as November still had not been inspected. Members were particularly concerned about the potential for retailer cash flow issues and reputational damage due to delays. 

    Paul Corkill, Director of Risk, Assurance and Standards, reported to the Group that the average time from installation completion to payment to the retailer is currently 22 days which suggests that the much-delayed inspections may be outliers. 

    Members have agreed to focus in on this issue in the next meeting given the delays they are experiencing.

    System export curtailment

    Members raised concern about an increase in solar export curtailment and zero exports for some PV customers in some regions. Members heard from Energy Networks Australia about CitiPower/Powercor activities to mitigate this problem in their network.

    Solar Victoria and DELWP have been working closely with CitiPower/Powercor to review their online export tool and to move forward the rollout of their hotspot program.

    Powercor have recently announced the early rollout of their hotspot program in Western Victoria between March and June 2021. They will be targeting areas of high rooftop solar penetration, with dedicated field crews working on up to 30 locations a week to increase power network capacity in Ballarat, Bendigo and Portland as well as the precinct between Sunshine and Point Cook in Melbourne’s western suburbs. 

    In the CitiPower network, work will be conducted over the next six months across Melbourne’s inner suburbs, including Northcote, Brunswick, Fitzroy, Kew and Camberwell.

    Citpower/Powercor have also committed to a review of customers whose export request is declined through the online application process. Customers who are declined should contact Citpower/Powercor directly to request a review of their application. 

    Notice to Market

    Jonathan Leake, Executive Director of Policy, Programs and Industry, and Luke Pickles, Manager of Sector Development, shared the upcoming changes to the Solar Victoria Notice to Market.

    Further information on the Notice to Market will be released shortly.

    Solar for Business Program

    Lashae Roulston, Director of Program Development and Implementation, provided an update to the Group on the progress of the Solar for Business Program. 

    The program eligibility criteria has since been launched and further information can be found at Solar for Business

Industry and Consumer Reference Group members

  • Ivor Frischknecht

    Ivor has 20 years’ experience in the renewable energy sector working at the intersection of energy and climate, innovation and investment. He is serving on the Boards of CleanCo Queensland, C4Net and RACE for 2030 CRC and is also on a number of advisory boards.  

    Ivor is the former Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). Ivor set up ARENA and oversaw its $2.1 billion portfolio for 6 years, during which time the organisation invested in 300+ ground-breaking clean energy projects.  Previously he was a venture capital investor and CEO in the clean energy sector in Australia and California.

    Ivor is a graduate of Stanford University Graduate School of Business and holds a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Economics (Honours).

  • Kane Thornton

    Kane Thornton is Chief Executive of the Clean Energy Council, the peak body for the renewable energy and energy storage industry in Australia.

    Kane has more than a decade's experience in energy policy and leadership in the development of the renewable energy industry. Kane has advocated for and helped design the policies that have been critical to the renewable energy industry's growth, and continues to be an active political advocate, public presenter and media spokesperson.

    His previous roles include senior manager and advisor for Hydro Tasmania and executive officer of Renewable Energy Generators Australia.

    Kane has broad international management experience having previously worked in technology, living and working in Asia. He has held a range of advisory and board roles with government and non-government organisations in the climate change and energy sector including as the chair of Renew the Deputy Chair of Sustainability Victoria.

    Kane is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, has a Masters in Social Science and Bachelor of Information Technology.

    www.cleanenergycouncil.org.au

  • John Grimes

    John was appointed as Chief Executive of the Australian Solar Council in 2008.

    John started his career as an officer in the Air Force and went on to found and grow a number of companies, including a start-up company he took to a successful listing on the ASX with a market capitalisation in excess of $30m.

    His most recent company was in the environmental sector employing over 25 people with operations in Australia, the US and the Middle East.

    In his role as CEO of the Smart Energy Council he has grown the profile and influence of the organisation.

    John has a passion for solar, storage and the smart energy industry. He is regularly called upon, by the media, to provide relevant and independent comment in these areas.

    www.smartenergy.org.au

  • Danny Filazzola

    In May 2017, Danny was elected Branch President of the ETU, a role he takes up 14 years after stepping up as a shop steward, representing fellow workers on the job.

    As Branch President Danny chairs the State Council.

    He also serves as a Divisional and National Councillor. Before being elected, Danny served as Training Officer and as an Organiser within the union.

    He continues to serve as a Board Member and Joint Chair of FES Industry Training Board and is a director of Protect.

    www.etuvic.com.au

  • Gerard Brody

    Gerard is CEO of the Consumer Action Law Centre, an independent, not-for-profit consumer organisation based in Melbourne. Consumer Action provides financial counselling, legal advice and representation to support vulnerable and disadvantaged Victorians and draws on its direct knowledge of the consumer experience in modern markets to pursue consumer interest campaigns and policy reform at both state and national levels.

    Gerard is also the Chair of Consumers’ Federation of Australia, the peak body for consumer organisations in Australia, representing a diverse range of consumer groups, including most national consumer organisations.

    www.consumeraction.org.au

  • Michael Weekes

    Michael has a strong background as an A Grade Electrician, an electrical contractor and is a Licenced Electrical Inspector, with a wealth of technical experience gained previously as the Technical and Operations Manager managing a team of electrical inspectors at one of the biggest inspection companies within Victoria. 

    He assisted in providing electrical inspection, investigations, training and consulting services to householders, businesses, registered electrical contractors, developers and supply authorities across Victoria. 

    Michael has also spent 13 years at Energy Safe Victoria as an Electrical Compliance and Enforcement Officer where he was involved in compliance inspections, legislative investigations, stakeholder engagement, standards review and writing, and education of the electrical industry. 

    Currently Michael is a Technical Manager with the National Electrical and Communications Association (NECA) where he is involved in providing advice, advocacy and mentoring. He sits on several committees, including the Wiring Rules, Licensing Advisory and Service and Installations Rules. He is also heavily involved in legislative reviews, including electricity safety, engineering design and residential tenancy. 

    www.neca.asn.au

  • Birender Grewal, Australian Solar and Energy Solutions

    Birender has been working for two years as an Operations Head at Australian Solar and Energy Solutions, where he promotes solar and sustainable living. 

    Starting from energy sales in 2009, Birender has more than a decade’s experience in the energy sector. He is passionate about reducing household energy costs by increasing consumer awareness and education about replacing inefficient and old appliances. To help achieve the Victorian Government’s zero emission targets, he is actively seeking support from the Solar Homes Program to promote energy efficiency assessments through the  Victorian Residential Efficiency Scorecard

    He is always keen to update his industry knowledge by attending CPD programs. His aim is to represent the wider immigrant community on the ICRG and act as a mediator to culturally and linguistically diverse solar stakeholders.  

    As well as being a CEC Accredited Designer, Birender holds a double Masters degree in Electronics and Management from La Trobe University and is attaining further qualifications in the renewable energy sector. 

    www.asaes.com.au

  • Stephen Harty

    Stephen has been in the solar industry for 5 years and is currently in the role of Energy Segment Manager for CSR Bradford Energy.

    The majority of Stephen’s work is relates to education via CPD programs, Developer and Builder programs and he has featured as a speaker at a number of Tertiary Education events, as well as appearing on The Block, Open Homes Australia and Million Dollar House Hunt.

    Stephen is passionate about making an impact, growing awareness and continually driving sustainability and future proofing messages via builder and developer channels.

    “Green field sites and new land release provide the chance for people to start or continue their home and family journeys with a positive impact, whether it reduction in carbon foot print or a surety over energy costs it all plays its part in teaching new, old and next generations of responsibility and individual impact.”

    www.bradfordenergy.com.au

  • Gareth Jennings Rheem Australia

    Gareth is Rheem’s General Manager Corporate Affairs. Rheem is a major Australian manufacturer of water heaters and leading provider of solar water heaters, photo voltaic systems and storage batteries through its Solahart division. 

    Prior to joining Rheem, Gareth held senior finance, marketing and sales positions in both Australia and overseas. At Rheem he has held responsibilities for marketing, product development and government relations. Taking on Rheem’s Corporate Affairs responsibilities in 2008, he has developed strong working relationships with a broad range of politicians, regulators and industry stakeholders at both a national and state level.  

    Gareth is a Director of Manufacturing Australia, Vice President of the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association of Australia and chairs the Australia Water Heater Forum. He also represents these organisations on the Federal Government’s Equipment Energy Efficiency Review Committee and the ABCB’s Residential Energy Efficiency Technical Working Group. 

    www.rheem.com.au

  • Christine Kennedy Total Solar Solutions Australia

    Christine has been the General Manager at Total Solar Solutions Australia since 2016. As a medium-size solar retailer, business owner and wife to an installer, Christine has a broad understanding of the day to day challenges of the Victorian Solar Industry. 

    With a background in operations management, project management and marketing, Christine sees her high-level customer service and stakeholder management skills as pivotal to her many achievements.  

    She hopes through joining the ICRG she can assist to create positive dialogue between key government stakeholders, solar retailers and installers. She is committed to safety, workmanship, quality and accountability in the Victorian solar industry.  

    She sees immense value in engaging with others and values the diversity of thought involved in collaboration. She is enthusiastic about helping others in the community and is also a founding member of Australian Women in Solar Energy (AWISE). 

    www.totalsolarsolutions.com.au

  • Steve Kostoff Solar Training Centre

    Steve is the owner and CEO of the Solar Training Centre, an award-winning Registered Training Organisation (RTO #40352) and environmental consultancy since 2008. 

    Together with his team, he is a passionate and leading educator of solar sector personnel across Australia. 

    With qualifications in environmental management, education and business management, Steve also delivers education for energy efficiency, renewables, auditing, retrofitting buildings and energy-efficient building design. 

    He has held numerous senior management positions throughout his career and has actively embedded sustainable practices in many varied businesses.  

    He has a global outlook, is fluent in the Macedonian language and has a strong cultural and social conscience.  

    Since 2007, Steve has also been a presenter and mentor with the Hon. Al Gore ‘Climate Reality Project' and has delivered the climate-change message to a significant audience across Australia. 

    Steve has broad Business and Community Development experience, with commensurate Board and Panel positions and is an unwavering advocate for the solar sector. 

    www.solarrto.com.au

  • Bobbi McKibbin

    Bobbi has been working in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sector since 2006. She has been a small business owner since 2009.

    Along with Brett Emo and Luke Fraser, she owns and operates Solar Integrity based in Albury Wodonga.

    Bobbi is a strong advocate for the solar industry and is the co-founder of Renewable Albury Wodonga Energy - a local community energy group gaining strong traction in the area. She is also an active member of North East Community Energy Network – 15 community energy groups from the electorate of INDI that meet and share knowledge.

    She is also a member of the Clean Energy Council’s Installer Reference Group.

    www.solarintegrityaw.com.au

  • Matthew Wilson Central Spark

    Matt has been working in the renewable energy industry since 2006 and is currently the director of Central Spark Victoria. 

    With a diverse range of skills in the industry Matt has a strong background in project management, solar design, installation and safety. Still spending most of his time onsite undertaking and supervising solar installations, he has working knowledge of the industry from sales through to customer handover.   

    Matt is an award-winning installer, designer, electrician and passionate supporter of the solar industry.    

    www.central-spark.com

  • Sophie Wright

    Sophie is Sales and Marketing Manager at Velocity Solar, a locally owned and run solar design and installation business servicing Victoria. She is an advocate for her customers and is dedicated to explaining solar simply so that people can understand in depth and jump on board with renewables.   

    She is has been working in the solar industry since February 2019.

    Sophie is a CEC Accredited Designer and CPA and is passionate about demystifying solar for consumers and moving Victoria closer to its renewable targets. 

    “I am involved in the ICRG to have an input into the processes, not only from an installer and retailer perspective, but from the perspective of customers applying. It is very rewarding to see the direct changes to the processes that have made it easier for everyone to take part in the Solar Homes program. This means more solar on rooftops and Victoria moving closer to renewable targets - it’s great to all be a part of that.”

Reviewed 22 April 2021