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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 Solar Victoria’s programs, including the sustainable development of the solar industry in Victoria.

 

Solar Victoria is committed to working closely with consumers and industry to inform the development and rollout of its programs.

The Industry and Consumer Reference Group (ICRG) provides advice to Solar Victoria and the Victorian Government on the effective delivery of its programs. This includes the Solar Homes and the Solar for Business Programs which aim 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.

The work of the ICRG helps Solar Victoria deliver on its goals and support 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.

Expressions of Interest now open

An Expression of Interest is open until Tuesday 31 January 2023 for people wishing to join the ICRG.

Read more

Outcomes from the Solar Victoria Industry and Consumer Reference Group

  • The ICRG meeting held on 5 October 2022 covered the following:

    CEO update

    CEO Stan Krpan provided an update on current issues in the industry and developments in Solar Victoria’s programs, including:

    • program uptake
    • new builds
    • inverter settings
    • Solar Victoria at events
    • the new risk-based class of Licensed Electrical Inspector
    • a survey of ICRG members to guide the group forward
    • Caretaker conventions

    Several matters and program developments were tabled:

    1. Solar Homes has now reached over 260,000 Victorians. There has been a steady increase in rebate applications since May and a significant number of applications since Solar Victoria opened applications for customers with homes under constructionExternal Link . The removal of the one rebate rule has also driven an increase in approved applications for the combination of solar and energy efficient hot water rebates.
    2. Stan thanked the ICRG for its advocacy for opening PV rebates to homes under construction and noted that this measure would speed up the electrification of Victorian homes. Solar Victoria will be monitoring feedback from stakeholders on the impact of the change.
    3. There are ongoing issues with AS/NZS 4777.2 2020 implementation and Solar Victoria reported that it is working closely with DELWP’s DER Strategy Team with communications to the industryExternal Link to support correct configuration of inverters.
    4. Solar Victoria has attended many events over the past months, providing excellent opportunities to promote incentives across the programs and gather feedback from various cohorts including farmers and businesses. Solar Victoria has had a presence at the Gippsland Renewable Energy ConferenceExternal Link and Melbourne Home ShowExternal Link in August, the Melbourne Royal ShowExternal Link in September-October, and the Elmore and District Machinery Field DaysExternal Link , Wandin-Silvan Field DaysExternal Link , House and Land ExpoExternal Link , MBAV Green Living ConferenceExternal Link and All Energy AustraliaExternal Link in October.
    5. Solar Victoria reported back on the roll out of the new class of Licensed Electrical Inspector (LEI)External Link to inspect renewable electricity systems, which came into effect on 23 October. The new class will be rolled out over the next 18 months and the team will continue to support the initiative with professional development initiatives over the coming months.
    6. Stan outlined the implications of the caretaker period during the state election campaign. ConventionsExternal Link allow for the business of government to continue, while ensuring apolitical communications. This may lead to reducing interaction with the group other than those related to ongoing operational matters.

    Update on solar hot water rebate

    Solar Victoria Executive Director of Customer Experience Kate Barnes, and Solar Victoria Director, CX Strategy and Insights John Kenyon updated the group on the progress in transferring the solar hot water rebate from a manual to a digital (on the portal) process.

    A short external review by Digital Victoria, interviewing a small number of stakeholders, confirmed that there are major pain points including:

    • issues with the manual time-consuming application process
    • the process for emergency installations
    • the product list
    • the need for a faster payment process and to also maintain high levels of quality and safety.

    The findings will be incorporated into the redesign of the solar hot water rebate application process and its digitisation. Solar Victoria will engage closely industry to enhance and build during the first stage.

    The vision of the project is to deliver a fast and efficient solar hot water rebate transaction, and in the future integrate it into Solar Victoria’s overall product offering to support an increase in rebate uptake, including by vulnerable customers.

    Members welcomed the review and the progress being made by Solar Victoria.

    Replacement systems eligibility review

    Solar Victoria Executive Director of Policy, Program and Industry Development Paul Corkill and Product Stewardship Lead Seamus Balkin reported back to the group on the replacement of systems post-November 2009. Customers are not eligible to claim a rebate to replace an existing system installed after this date.

    There have been reports that this rule may not have been followed by some customers for various reasons such as:

    • faulty systems being replaced, the desire for a bigger system or the homeowner having recently purchased the property and being unaware of the prior installation date.

    Solar Victoria has investigated these reports and has responded with proposed actions that were tested with the group including:

    • promote eligibility requirement for replacing existing systems to customers and strengthen the application process
    • extend positive (and reasonable) obligations to solar retailers of compliance with existing systems criteria
    • conduct more sophisticated data matching
    • deliver communications to industry to clarify policy and enforcement activities
    • engage ICRG and other stakeholders (early 2023) to codesign any changes to the existing systems criteria.

    Members were concerned that some customers may have been misled by retailers on this rule. It was generally agreed that there were some good reasons to replace damaged or faulty systems under the rebate.

    Solar Victoria has undertaken to look at the best way to flag existing systems that have been removed for retailers and will come back to the group for further consultation on any modification to the rule.

    Update on Solar Victoria audit processes and outcomes

    Solar Victoria Director of Risk, Assurance and Standards Michael Greenwood and Manager of Assurance and Audit Carmen Pace updated the group on the latest audit processes and outcomes. This was in response to questions the group had raised on how audits are conducted and how installers can interact with Solar Victoria and its auditors about audit results. It was noted:

    • There is ample opportunity to provide feedback to the independent auditors TechSafeExternal Link , and Solar Victoria within the clear audit timelines.
    • Audits are undertaken by LEIs and A-grade electricians and TechSafe has a senior technical advisor to review final drafts and reports.
    • Solar Victoria conducts quality assurance checks on final reports and meets regularly with TechSafe to discuss key findings and technical issues.
    • Solar Victoria has quality assurance and continuous improvement at the centre of its contract management with TechSafe, its contracted auditor.
    • The improving outcomes data from installation audits demonstrates that the drive for continuous improvement is successful across the life of the program so far.

    Solar Victoria will continue to welcome feedback on audit processesExternal Link and outcomes and will also continue to ‘check the checker.’

    Voice of the Customer update

    Solar Victoria Manager Customer Systems, Reporting and Insights Tim Renowden updated the group on the how the Voice of the Customer (VOC) program embeds customer feedback into Solar Victoria’s programs and set out some significant recent results in customer and industry surveys:

    • VOC is an important part of integrating the customer journey into our programs and to measure how Solar Victoria is tracking against performance targets.
    • Automation has led to significant increases in survey responses this year.
    • Surveys are codesigned with program managers and a cross organisation working group with 12 new surveys developed across batteries, PV, Home Heating and Cooling Upgrades, Zero Emissions Vehicles, solar hot water and the industry.
    • Customer satisfaction has improved since 2021 for most key measures. 73 per cent of customers are saving more than expected on bills, and 74 per cent have changed how they use energy since installation. There are further good results on satisfaction with Solar Victoria, retailers and installed systems.

    Solar Victoria will look at how it can best communicate information that is useful to retailers on customer experience that industry can use in business processes and customer education.

  • The ICRG meeting held on 3 August 2022 covered the following:

    • CEO update
    • market conditions update
    • Victoria’s Gas Substitution Roadmap
    • DNSP actions on grid stability and the integration of distributed energy resource.

    CEO update

    CEO Stan Krpan provided an update on current issues in the industry and developments in Solar Victoria’s programs, including:

    • current Victorian Government advice on COVID-19
    • skills and training
    • crystalline silica regulations
    • the re-opening of the supplier panel for the Home Heating and Cooling Upgrades program
    • South Australia’s battery list
    • breach of the rule against replacement PV systems
    • end-of-life management of PV panels and system replacement.

    Several matters and program developments were tabled:

    1. Solar Victoria has continued the implementation of its Training and Workforce Development packageExternal Link , having recently contracted another training provider for Licensed Electrical Inspector TrainingExternal Link in Southeast Melbourne. Solar Victoria is also encouraging more electricians to undertake its subsidised PV and battery trainingExternal Link . This initiative has been well subscribed and has extra funding to support additional trainees. Solar Victoria has concluded its webinar series to support womenExternal Link to work in the solar industry.
    2. WorkSafe has provided guidance to Solar Victoria that roof cutting of tiles during solar installation will not require an engineered stone licence. Solar installers will still need to assess whether the work they are undertaking meets the definition of a crystalline silica process and utilise appropriate safety controls.
    3. Solar Victoria will re-open its supplier panel for the Home Heating and Cooling Upgrades (HHCU) programExternal Link in the coming weeks to expand the number of suppliers in the program. It is anticipated that re-opening the panel will lead to greater program availability in regional Victoria.
    4. The South Australian (SA) Home Battery Scheme is being closed by the South Australian Government. Solar Victoria utilises the SA Battery Scheme product list and will now need to consider alternatives including the option of implementing its own product list for batteries.
    5. Solar Victoria is aware of a small number of retailers and installers not complying with its rule to not allow rebated PV installations for homeowners who already have solar PV systems installed after 1 November 2009 (see: Am I eligible?External Link ). Systems installed prior to this date were incentivised through premium feed-in-tariffs. Solar Victoria has investigated retailers and installers where this rule is not followed and will take appropriate action including denying payment of a rebate.
    6. Solar Victoria is considering several mechanisms to support recycling and end-of-life management of PV systems and will brief the ICRG at an upcoming meeting.

    Market conditions update

    Warwick Johnston from the consultancy SunWiz provided an update on the Australian and Victorian solar PV market.

    Recent indicators for Victoria are down compared to the rest of the country, with Small-scale Technology Certificate (STC) and lead generation below other comparable jurisdictions. The reasons for this relative underperformance are not clear.

    Anecdotal experience from ICRG members suggest demand is strong but skills and supply are constraining their businesses. System costs are trending upwards due to high transport and fuel costs and there is no sign this will change soon. Battery uptake is trending up both in Victoria and nationally.

    Victoria’s Gas Substitution Roadmap

    DELWP Energy Group Director, Energy Strategy Katie Brown briefed ICRG members on the Government’s strategic plan to decarbonise the gas sector, Victoria’s Gas Substitution RoadmapExternal Link . It was noted that the roadmap was designed to enable consumer choice and facilitate the electrification of Victorian homes.

    Key points tabled include:

    • Electrification will play a dominant role in reducing gas use this decade. Analysis of Victorian network demand has demonstrated there is significant headroom to increase electrification of grid connected homes.
    • Households will save significant dollar amounts through electrification as enabled through both Victorian Energy UpgradesExternal Link and Solar Victoria programs.
    • Incentives for gas appliances will be phased out by 2023, and the requirement for new developments to be gas connected will be removed this year.
    • Alternative gases such as biomethane and hydrogen will be essential to support the decarbonisation of large industry and manufacturing sectors.

    Comments from the group included:

    • Consumers are still regularly advised that gas is a cheaper energy source than electricity and that messaging around clean hydrogen could confuse customers looking to transition to all electric homes.
    • Regional customers relying on gas may not have access to sufficient network capacity to support upgrading to an all-electric home. There is also the increased risk of relying on one form of energy only.
    • Concern over the reliance on overseas manufacturing to support the change-over to heat pump technology, and the technical limitations of heat pumps to participate in demand response and network firming activities.
    • A question on support for low-income households, with the upfront costs of electric appliances.

    DNSP actions on grid stability and the integration of distributed energy resource

    Representatives of Citipower, Powercor, United Energy, Jemena and Ausnet detailed key actions being undertaken to manage network voltage and enable distributed energy resource integration:

    • Citipower, Powercor and United Energy have been investing heavily in voltage management initiatives to reduce export limiting and network constraints. These include a dynamic voltage management system which utilises real time data on customer voltage to optimise substation performance.
    • Jemena has conducted several transformer optimisation actions to reduce voltage constraints and enable solar exports and is working further to utilise real-time feedback data to enable network-wide voltage management.
    • Ausnet is targeting constrained substations for upgrades and improvements to support solar exports. They have a solar enablement program focused on voltage performance, network solutions and new technologies. This includes an opt-in dynamic operating envelope trial to enable flexible exports and Project Edge, a Virtual Power Plant (VPP) project that is also rebated through the Solar Victoria VPP pilot programExternal Link .

    The group discussed the social licence for new technology, such as dynamic exporting which requires a degree of network control over customers’ inverters. Ausnet noted that these customers were already export constrained and were willing to trial dynamic exporting in order to increase their exports.

    The group thanked the DNSPs for contributing valuable information on work being undertaken to support the increased integration of distributed energy resources into the grid.

  • The ICRG meeting held on 1 June 2022 covered the following:

    • CEO update
    • Current supply-chain and market conditions for solar products in Victoria
    • DELWP Energy update on distributed energy resources management and compliance
    • Update on the Consumer Protection Review.

    CEO update

    CEO Stan Krpan gave an update on current issues in the industry and developments in Solar Victoria’s programs, including:

    • Ausnet connection processes
    • inverter compliance
    • inverter and solar panel compatibility
    • The Solar Victoria Notice to Market 2022–23
    • Solar hot water and Solar for Business program changes
    • Solar Victoria’s 2023 training and workforce development program.

    Several industry matters and program developments were tabled:

    1. Solar Victoria has engaged directly with Ausnet to relay the group’s concerns regarding connection processes. Ausnet has acknowledged it has had a conservative approach to connection applications and export limits but is working towards increasing distributed energy resources (DER) integration.
    2. The Clean Energy Council (CEC), Smart Energy Council (SEC), Solar Victoria and DELWP are all working to address issues with inverter compliance under the Australian standard AS/NZS4777.2.
    3. There have also been recent issues regarding the interpretation of installation standard AS/NZS 5033:2021 and combinations of certain inverter and PV panel products. Solar Victoria is aware of several issues regarding interpretations of AS/NZS standards and is keen to engage with industry on an ongoing basis on standards.
    4. The Solar Victoria Notice to Market 2022–23 was released on 1 June 2022. It contains no new mandatory requirements and five recommended requirements.
    5. There are several new program changes in the market. The Solar for Business program will now have expanded eligibility, including businesses with less than 50 full-time equivalent staff. Applicants will also be able to access a system with a maximum inverter size of 30kw and an interest free loan of $1000-$5000 at up to 50 per cent of installation cost. Eligible Victorian households will now also be able to access both the solar PV and solar hot water rebate.
    6. Solar Victoria held an out of session ICRG consultation on 18 May 2022 to inform design of Solar Victoria’s 2023 training program. Members suggested that Solar Victoria focus on including more battery training, providing training opportunities for regional areas, and looking at how to best attract people to the renewable energy sector.

    Regulatory Standards update

    Solar Victoria provided an update on several installation and product standards that have come into effect in the last 12 months:

    • It became apparent in September 2021 there was an issue with the supply of compliant DC-isolators certified to the AS/NZS 4777.2.2020 standard.
    • Solar Victoria worked with regulators to provide an extension until 30 June 2022 to enable suppliers and manufacturers to achieve certification under the standard.
    • Solar Victoria is not aware of any major supply chain challenges or concerns affecting the supply of compliant DC isolators after 30 June 2022.
    • The updated safety standard AS/NZS 5033:2021 came into effect on 19 May 2022 and Solar Victoria has taken a proactive role in communicating changes with industry.

    Solar Homes Program uptake data

    Solar Victoria tabled Solar Homes Program snapshot data, which demonstrated a slight uptick across all rebate streams in May and a significant increase in solar hot water applications since the removal of the “one rebate rule” for solar hot water.

    Changes to the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES)

    The Clean Energy Regulator (CER) provided an overview of current and future changes to the SRES scheme following the release of CER’s Integrity Review of the Rooftop Solar PV SectorExternal Link in September 2022.

    Phase one reforms commenced on 1 April 2022 and include updated written statement requirements for solar installers and designers, collation of inverter serial numbers from manufacturers and importers and new powers for the CER to declare solar installers and retailers ineligible under the SRES scheme.

    Phase two reforms commence from 1 July 2022 onwards and include reassessment of the solar accreditation scheme and consultation regarding the nominated publisher of approved inverter and solar panel products. This could lead to additional accreditors to the CEC under the SRES scheme.

  • The ICRG meeting held on 6 April 2022 covered the following:

    • CEO update
    • Current supply-chain and market conditions for solar products in Victoria
    • DELWP Energy update on distributed energy resources management and compliance
    • Update on the Consumer Protection Review;

    CEO update

    CEO Stan Krpan gave an update on current issues in the industry and developments in Solar Victoria's programs, including:

    • COVID-19 guidelines.
    • The Clean Energy Regulator (CER) is implementing several changes to the Small-scale Renewable Energy SchemeExternal Link . Solar Victoria has invited the CER to the next ICRG meeting on 1 June 2022 to discuss these changes.
    • Solar Victoria data and industry feedback shows that the solar industry has not bounced back from the latest round of COVID-19 public health protections as expected. There are several factors affecting consumer sentiment including supply-chain issues, the diminishing feed-in tariff and low electricity prices. Solar PV rebate uptake is flat, but there is strong consumer interest in battery rebates and the Zero Emissions Vehicle Subsidy
    • The Notice to Market 2022–23 has been settled with your input and Solar Victoria is aiming to publish it in April 2022, with the rebate value amounts to be published later.
    • Several of Solar Victoria's Phase 2 training initiatives are now available in the market, including the apprenticeships for women initiative, upskilling electricians to install solar PV and battery systems, and mental health first aid training through St John's Ambulance Victoria.

    Stan noted that several program adjustments to increase demand were currently being considered and discussed more broadly with government.

    Current supply-chain and market conditions for solar products in Victoria

    Solar energy consultant Warwick Johnston from Sunwiz and solar wholesaler Andrew Burgess from Solar Juice presented on current market trends for solar PV in Victoria and nationally.

    They noted the downward trend in solar installations across the country, as well as the strong and continuing interest in battery storage. It was noted that logistics, global shortages of key components, strong PV demand in China and the increasing demand for lithium were driving up prices of solar PV and battery system components.

    DELWP Energy update on distributed energy resources management and compliance

    Katie Brown updated the group on DELWP Energy's work on distributed energy resources (DER) technical standards. It was noted that solar PV inverters are frequently being incorrectly configured and this was having a significant impact on grid integration. Low levels of inverter compliance may lead to poor outcomes for the solar industry including more zero or curtailed export limits and an emergency solar disconnection as has been implemented in South Australia.

    Members noted the need for stronger communications from Distributed Network Service Providers (DNSPs) on inverter compliance and noted that training may be required for installers to support inverter complianceExternal Link .

    Update on the Consumer Protection Review

    Solar Victoria has recently completed its Consumer Protection Review which has made a total of 21 preliminary recommendations for the Solar Homes Program. There are four key consumer protection issues identified which formed the basis of the review's recommendations to Solar Victoria:

    1. Unsolicited sales.
    2. Requiring a uniform or proforma template for quoting.
    3. Providing for an independent external dispute resolution.
    4. Protections and warranties.

    The next steps for Solar Victoria are further consultation and collaboration with stakeholders to enact the review's recommendations. It was noted that Solar Victoria typically only receives a small number of complaints which are often voluntarily resolved by retailers and installers.

  • The ICRG meeting held on 2 February 2022 covered the following:

    • CEO update
    • Final consultation on the Solar Victoria Notice to Market 2022–23
    • WorkSafe update on cutting silica products
    • Update on non-compliance management in the Solar Homes Program

    CEO update

    Solar Victoria CEO Stan Krpan gave an update on current issues in the industry and developments in Solar Victoria’s programs, including:

    Solar Victoria noted that COVID-19 had a continued impact on its installation pipeline. Members were advised to complete installation of their oldest sales first (first in first out), to ensure customers receive the rebate values provided at time of quote.

    There are several program developments currently underway:

    • The Virtual Power Plant pilot program was announced in December 2021. There are six offerings from five providers with battery rebates at the higher value of $4,174.
    • Solar Victoria has also recently soft-launched its collaboration with Homes VictoriaExternal Link to provide joint funding for HHCU Program installations for community housing organisations.
    • The Solar for Business Program will soon expand to offer businesses zero interest loans. This is on track for delivery in March 2022.
    • The Training and Workforce Development package is progressing:

    o Several grants are under consideration for providers of PV/battery training and the Apprenticeships for women initiatives.

    o The Licensed Electrical Inspector pilot training program is scheduled to commence in February 2022.

    o HHCU Program orientation training, mental health first aid training and supporting women in solar initiatives have all been contracted, with training activities commencing from February 2022.

    Final consultation on the Solar Victoria Notice to Market 2022–23

    Solar Victoria presented its Notice to Market 2022–23 for final overview by the group. Solar Victoria is not recommending any new mandatory requirements at this stage, but it will amend some existing requirements to reflect national standards.

    Members were supportive of the proposed Notice to Market. They also discussed the potential risk of causing confusion for some by duplicating current standards or recommending an approach to DC isolators which may vary from other guidance.

    Members advocated for stronger requirements for interoperability of inverter products. Solar Victoria will consider this feedback before finalising the Notice to Market.

    WorkSafe update on cutting silica products

    WorkSafe provided an update on safety requirements for handling silica products. The Occupational Health and Safety Amendment (Crystalline Silica) Regulations 2021External Link commenced on 15 November 2021.

    Under these regulations, there is a requirement to conduct a risk assessment to determine if high-risk silica work is being undertaken. Members heard that if the safety data sheet is not available for the tile product, the work must be treated as high-risk silica work with appropriate safety controls.

    Members expressed concern about the danger of silica dust exposure for their workforce and about the potential high cost of compliance with the amended regulations.

    Solar Victoria will distribute the Compliance Code for Managing Exposure to Crystalline Silica: Engineered Stone once available and work with peak bodies to obtain a definitive position on whether the solar industry it is bound by these regulations and how it can comply.

    Update on non-compliance management in the Solar Homes Program

    Solar Victoria presented an overview of how it manages non-compliance within the Solar Homes Program. Key points included:

    • Most complaints come through Solar Victoria’s first contact resolution process prior to being handled by its Risk Assurance and Standards team.
    • Most complaints since August 2021 have been safety concerns. These complaints come through Solar Victoria’s complaints team, accredited retailers, installers and from regulatory partners, WorkSafe and Energy Safe Victoria.
    • The actions Solar Victoria may take against a breach include a cease-and-desist notice, referral to regulators, or referral to the program integrity group which may remove them from the program.
    • Solar Victoria’s non-compliance management has led to positive program changes such as the ban on door-to-door sales.

    Members commended Solar Victoria on the compliance investigations and associated outcomes which were presented.

  • The ICRG meeting held on 24 November 2021 covered the following:

    • South Australian disconnect/reconnect regulations and minimum demand management in Victoria
    • CEO update
    • Update on the Solar Homes Program Review

    South Australian disconnect/reconnect regulations and minimum demand management in Victoria;

    In 2020, new regulationsExternal Link were introduced in South Australia that allow household PV systems to be remotely switched off when the grid experiences minimum demand.

    Emma Fagan from Tesla and Kurt Winter from AGL were invited to discuss the introduction and impact of these new regulations on retailers and consumers. Katie Brown from DELWP Distributed Energy Resources (DER) Strategy team provided an overview of minimum demand management approaches being considered in Victoria.

    Key points made by presenters and the group include:

    • The South Australian rollout of remote disconnect/reconnect measures, as an emergency backstop to manage minimum demand, required more extensive consultation than was implemented.
    • South Australian remote disconnect/reconnect regulations create some cost risks to consumers. Other methods of demand management such as Virtual Power Plants (VPPs) offer an incremental growth option for consumers.
    • DELWP is considering managing minimum demand events through a range of methods including battery technology, VPPs, demand response programs, dynamic operating envelopes and electric vehicle charging.

    Members thanked Solar Victoria and Katie Brown for beginning engagement on minimum demand management early and the sophistication of DELWP’s proposed approach was welcomed.

    CEO update

    Solar Victoria CEO Stan Krpan gave an update on current issues in the industry and developments in Solar Victoria’s programs, including:

    Members were advised that all COVID-19 restrictions on movement and site numbers for solar installations have now been removed. The HHCU program recently launched the rental providers streamExternal Link in October and assessed new suppliers are on schedule for announcement in December 2021.

    Solar Victoria’s 2022 skills and training package is on target to meet key milestones. Solar Victoria has collaborated with the Clean Energy Council to promote mental health first-aid training, which will be available in February 2022.

    There was strong engagement with Solar Victoria’s EOI in April 2021 for the Battery Aggregation Pilot, now known as the Virtual Power Plant Pilot Program.

    Solar Victoria will soon commence a ramp up of its advertising campaigns with a focus on targeting renters.

    Update on the Solar Homes Program Review

    Director of Policy and Sector Development Sarah Johnson updated the group on the Solar Homes Program Review. She thanked the group for their stakeholder consultation input to date and noted that Solar Victoria has contracted Point AdvisoryExternal Link to support the program review.

    Some of the key themes that emerged through engagement for the program review include:

    • Lower demand across Solar Victoria’s rebate programs and in the rooftop PV sector is attributed to the current backlog of approved applications, issues with product supply and increasing product prices related to the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions.
    • There may be a need to adjust the value of rebates across all streams Additional stakeholder feedback centred on future opportunities for the Solar Homes Program. These include expanding the remit of the program to provide renewable energy to renters and apartment building tenants, and supporting household efficiency and grid stability through offering other energy efficiency products to consumers.

    ICRG members thanked Solar Victoria for the opportunity to participate in consultation on the Solar Homes Program Review.

  • The ICRG meeting held on 27 October 2021 covered the following:

    • update on Solar Victoria’s programs and related industry issues
    • consultation on the 2022 Notice to Market
    • KPMG engagement to develop a new class of Licensed Electrical Inspectors for renewable energy systems
    • Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) campaign on maintenance of solar systems

    CEO Stan Krpan gave an update on current issues in the industry and developments in the Solar Homes program, including:

    Members were updated on COVID-19 restrictions still in effect for the construction sector, and the easing of restrictions, that further changes to restrictions were expected on 29 October 2021 and that WorkSafe and Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) will be conducting additional inspections in the coming months to ensure a safe return to work.

    Solar Victoria reported an issue with some DC isolators being tested by labs in China that had lost certification, which led to these ineligible for supply in Australia. As a result, Solar Victoria advised retailers and installersExternal Link not to install these products and is working closely with ESV and peak bodies to keep the industry updated as the issue evolves.

    Since June, Solar Victoria’s Notice to MarketExternal Link has included a move towards new Australian inverter standards. These standards become mandatory on 18 December. Solar Victoria will work closely with industry around communicating these changes and will update customer applications where necessary.

    As of 1 July, Working Safely in the Solar Industry and Working Safely at Heights trainingExternal Link has been mandatory to participate in Solar Victoria’s programs. Approximately 85 per cent of the 950 accredited CEC installers have completed this training. Solar Victoria is taking action against the approximately 140 installers who have not completed the training yet.

    Stan also welcomed the current ICRG membership on board for another term.

    Consultation on the Notice to Market 2022–23

    Solar Victoria presented initial options and sought feedback on possible new mandatory and recommended requirements for the Notice to Market 2022–23, which members broadly supported.

    Solar Victoria will now undertake further targeted public consultation and seek final feedback from the ICRG.

    KPMG engagement to develop a new class of Licensed Electrical Inspectors for renewable energy systems

    DELWP has engaged KPMG to develop an options paper exploring the risks and benefits of introducing a new class of Licensed Electrical Inspectors (LEIs). This follows a review of the energy inspection regime by ESVExternal Link that identified improvements that could be made in the inspection of renewable energy systems.

    Members expressed support for the proposal of a new class of LEIs for renewable energy systems.

    Energy Safe Victoria campaign on maintenance of solar systems.

    Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) presented on a new campaign it is developing with Solar Victoria on solar PV system maintenance. This campaign is proposed to ensure ongoing system safety for consumers, many of whom are unaware of system maintenance needs or issues.

    The campaign’s key message is that servicing should take place every two years. ESV and Solar Victoria would work closely with industry to develop resources for the community, so they understand the reason for system maintenance and what to expect from the servicing of systems. Members noted that:

    • the cost of regular maintenance would substantially reduce the savings expected from solar systems and this is usually not disclosed up front as part of the expected savings calculations
    • remote monitoring systems can often detect when a system isn’t working properly
    • there are unqualified ‘solar panel cleaners’ offering their services, and consumer education is needed, particularly because inappropriate servicing of a solar system may have warranty implications

    More consultation was recommended before proposing specific maintenance protocols.

  • The ICRG meeting held on 29 September 2021 covered the following:

    • update on Solar Victoria’s programs
    • the Clean Energy Regulator’s Integrity Review of the Rooftop Solar PV Sector
    • workforce skills and training initiatives
    • update on Solar Victoria’s communications.

    CEO Stan Krpan gave an update on current issues in the industry and developments in the Solar Homes program, including:

    • the construction shutdown and Victoria’s COVID-19 roadmap including responses to questions from the 20 September roundtable
    • Solar Victoria’s battery rebate and aggregation programs
    • Solar Victoria’s Working Safely in Solar training initiative
    • the Home Heating and Cooling Upgrades program, including government assistance for tendering an EOI for the program.

    Solar Victoria reported that PV retail sales and installations have slowed. Battery sales have continued, with approximately 115 rebates left for batteries at their current value (as at 29 September 2021). Solar Victoria has also developed a panel to support the implementation of virtual power plants which should assist grid stabilisation.

    Members were very supportive of the rule change enabling simultaneous purchase and installation of PV and battery, a suggestion which had come from the ICRG.

    Members were thanked for their work in ensuring mandatory Working Safely in Solar training was completed. Approximately 3500 installers have completed this training. There are still approximately 400 accredited installers who have not completed this training. This is understandable for some installers who may have been enrolled prior to current COVID-19 restrictions being put in place. Solar Victoria will take a pragmatic approach following up training as TAFEs will likely be closed until November.

    Solar Victoria reported a good uptake of the Home Heating and Cooling Upgrades program, with changes coming in October that will allow renters to access the program.

    Members and industry have previously provided feedback that companies may need support seeking to join the Home Heating and Cooling UpgradesExternal Link panel if they have not previously undertaken a government tender. Solar Victoria has arranged a tailored information session relevant to its EOI process and access to a general webinar providing more information on applying for government tenders.

    Clean Energy Regulator’s Integrity Review of the Rooftop Solar PV Sector

    Kane Thornton, CEO of the Clean Energy Council (CEC) provided an update on the implications of the recently commissioned Clean Energy Regulator’s (CER) Integrity Review of the Rooftop Solar PV SectorExternal Link (2021). The CEC commended the CER for its work on this report. Some key points identified by the CEC include:

    • The CER review acknowledged the good work undertaken by the CEC in its co-regulatory role within the Small-Scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES)External Link . However, the Clean Energy Council is somewhat limited regarding enforcement of electrical safety standards. The review proposed a stronger regulatory role for the CER. The Clean Energy Council supports these recommendations.
    • Installers: Installers are to understand their obligations as they become accredited under the SRES. In relation to this, the CER is seeking to formalise its relationship with relevant accrediting bodies. The CER will look to play a more active role in setting standards and guidelines for solar installers.
    • Retailing: The review proposes that solar retailers play a role in confirming they meet their obligations under the SRES, with a potential blacklist of retailers that are non-compliant. The Clean Energy Council believes there is greater scope to ensure integrity from retailers.
    • Products: The review proposes that product suppliers provide greater assurances that products meet necessary standards and requirements. It is expected that greater rigor will be introduced to the testing regime for solar products going forward.

    Kane commended the review for proposing a stronger regulatory role for the CER in the rooftop PV sector. However, the review does not cover all integrity issues noted by the CEC, such as phoenix companies, consumer protections and standardisation of inspection regimes.

    Workforce skills and training initiatives

    Executive Director, Policy, Program and Industry Development Jonathan Leake and Manager, Sector Development Luke Pickles updated the ICRG on Solar Victoria’s proposed skills and training initiatives through to June 2022 in six key areas:

    1. Apprenticeships (prioritising uptake by women).
    2. Expanded safety training and support.
    3. Industry orientation training for participants in the Home Heating and Cooling Upgrades program.
    4. Licensed Electrical Inspector training (prioritising uptake by women).
    5. Subsidised training for electricians to become solar PV and battery installers.
    6. Women in solar.

    Members were supportive of the initiatives put forward, particularly for the effort Solar Victoria was making to increase female representation in the sector.

    Update on Solar Victoria’s communications

    Director, Communications Marianne Doyle updated the group on Solar Victoria’s current work in communications:

    Solar Stories

    Solar Stories present people-centric stories to the consumer, expressing the benefits of solar at an individual, business and community level. The communications team is progressing regional filming sessions for its Solar Stories program, with the next session focused on the Gippsland region.

    Customer Welcome Pack

    From October, all customers will receive a digital customer welcome pack. The pack is comprised of four touchpoints over 12 months following the installation of a solar system. The content is hosted on the Solar Hub. It will provide customers information on:

    • optimising system use and system maintenance
    • transitioning to an all-electric home
    • understanding system data and analytics
    • taking the next steps: battery installation, virtual power plants and zero emissions vehicles.

    Retailer resources

    Solar Victoria is interested in members’ feedback on their retailer resources. Members commended Solar Victoria for its communications strategy and resources.

    Members’ suggestions included the development of a resource on solar installation with heritage overlays and a resource which demonstrated compliant solar installation for the consumer.

  • The ICRG meeting held on 25 August 2021 covered the following:

    • Home Heating and Cooling Upgrades and Solar for Business programs updates
    • Solar Victoria consumer protection project plan
    • Solar Homes program review.

    Update on Solar Victoria’s programs and related industry issues

    CEO Stan Krpan gave an update on current issues in the industry and our programs. This included:

    • the Home Heating and Cooling Upgrades and Solar for Business programs
    • coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions for the solar industry
    • the recently released AEMC rules on Access, Pricing and Incentives for DER
    • Solar Victoria’s training agenda
    • product stewardship opportunities.

    Solar Victoria has received positive feedback on the ease of the application process and portal operation for the Home Heating and Cooling Upgrades (HHCU) programExternal Link , with customers and retailers both supporting the streamlined process. Solar Victoria is also working to streamline the next Expression of Interest process for new suppliersExternal Link to participate in the program. Members also heard that the Solar for Business programExternal Link was tracking well, with a strong pipeline of applications from a wide range of businesses across the state.

    Members acknowledged the changing coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions and were pleased with the Victorian Government’s approach, allowing (at the time of this meeting) PV systems to be installed while balancing health restrictions. Members praised Solar Victoria for its timely and clear communications to the industry each time restrictions changed, noting that it was the best in Australia.

    Solar Victoria reported that over 3,100 solar workers have now completed compulsory safety trainingExternal Link and members were updated on the progress in developing Licensed Electrical Inspector (LEI) trainingExternal Link which is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

    Members were also interested in progress being made on product stewardship, and the plans for Solar Victoria, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and Sustainability Victoria to work together with stakeholders to codevelop a solution to deal with products at the end-of-life.

    Solar Victoria’s consumer protection project plan

    Director of Risk, Assurance and Standards Paul Corkill and Manager of Program Integrity Maddison Fairthorne presented on the project plan. They informed members on the process to receive feedback to develop approaches in the following areas:

    • Unsolicited sales activities.
    • Requiring a uniform or proforma template for retailers’ quotes.
    • Provisions for independent external dispute resolution.
    • Protecting consumers against retailers that cease operations during the five-year warranty period.

    Members acknowledged their support of the door-to-door sales banExternal Link commencing 1 September and suggested telemarketing and lead generation should be the next consumer protection focus.

    Members look forward to further consultation and contribution in this area.

    Solar Homes Program Review

    Executive Director of Policy, Programs and Industry Jonathan Leake and Director of Policy and Sector Development Sarah Johnson introduced the Solar Homes Program Review.

    Members were informed of plans to seek feedback on three key themes. These will focus on:

    1. future policy options
    2. policy commitments and targets
    3. business operations and planning efficiencies in managing the program.

    Members provided broad-ranging feedback and discussion that covered:

    • offering solar rebates for new builds
    • rebate values, pro-rata rebate rates for batteries, and the pros and cons of lowering the PV rebate value.
    • PV and solar hot water for apartments
    • ‘bundling’ of rebates, allowing households to access more than one rebate type
    • looking at the flow-on energy savings benefits to people on low incomes and renters
    • articulating the policy objectives of the program.

    Members look forward to further consultation on the review.

  • The ICRG meeting held on 28 July 2021 covered the following:

    • update on COVID-19 restrictions
    • vulnerable customers
    • Home Heating and Cooling Program update
    • overview of the Solar Homes Program.

    Update on COVID-19 restrictions

    Solar Victoria CEO Stan Krpan provided the group with an update on the implications of the recent COVID-19 restrictions, including that solar installations are permitted under the easing (this was prior to the current lockdown). Members heard that:

    • June was a record month for Solar Victoria with over 16,000 applications, which is three times the number of applications in April 2021.
    • Given the high volume of applications, the turnaround period for approval is approximately 10 days, but Solar Victoria expects this to return within the five-day target period shortly.
    • Extensions are being granted to all customers whose applications are due to expire due to COVID-19 restrictions and the related pipeline of installations.

    Vulnerable customers

    Kate Barnes, Acting Executive Director, Customer Experience highlighted Solar Victoria’s commitment to assisting vulnerable customers and its relevant strategies. This included research undertaken in partnership with the Australian Energy FoundationExternal Link , which focused on cohorts:

    • with language diversity
    • from rural and isolated locations
    • with limited internet access, or who may be otherwise technologically or digitally disadvantaged.

    Solar Victoria then incorporated those findings into its new programs and training for new employees.

    Members were supportive of the various initiatives outlined to support vulnerable customers. These included, amongst other things: paper-based applications, payment extensions, pausing loan repayments and upcoming renter applications for the Solar Homes Program and Home Heating and Cooling Upgrades Program.

    Members also expressed interest in consumer protection and Customer Experience dispute resolution mechanisms as future ICRG agenda items.

    Home Heating and Cooling Upgrades Program update

    Jonathan Leake, Executive Director, Programs, Policy and Industry Development, provided a summary of the Home Heating and Cooling Upgrades (HHCU) ProgramExternal Link to date:

    • approximately 50 small, medium and large businesses have been chosen to participate in the initial phase of the approved supplier panel, covering every Local Government Area in Victoria
    • based on the number of installation teams across the 50 suppliers and geographic coverage, up to 40 installations per day are possible in even the most remote regional areas, and over 300 per day in metropolitan Melbourne.

    Solar Victoria highlighted that the purpose of this program is to support low-income households as well as stimulate the economy following COVID-19 restrictions, and that it will monitor uptake and performance to ensure it meets the objectives of the program.

    Overview of the Solar Homes Program

    • Members were presented with recent figures on applications and installations from the Solar Homes Program.
    • Solar Victoria will consider a forward agenda item relating to the process for next year’s Notice to Market.
    • The group heard the results of Solar Victoria’s most recent Voice of the Customer survey on post-installation satisfaction. Results indicated that 85 per cent of Solar Homes customers surveyed are either very satisfied or satisfied with the quality and product of their installations.
    • It was noted that it is important to have ongoing surveys that seek feedback from customers over an extended period and track any change in response to positive or negative Solar Victoria feedback. Solar Victoria reported that it was working on measuring customer behaviour and feedback several months following an installation.

    Also see our program reporting pageExternal Link for program insights.

  • The ICRG meeting held on 30 June 2021 covered the following:

    • update on Solar Victoria’s programs and related industry issues
    • Time Of Use tariffs
    • Solar for Business Program update
    • members’ insights and feedback.

    Solar Victoria Chief Executive Officer Stan Krpan and A/Executive Director of Policy, Programs and Industry Jonathan Leake provided the group with an update on current issues in the industry and programs including:

    Solar Victoria's Notice to MarketExternal Link was released prior to 1 July 2021 and Solar Victoria will look at ways to make its release more timely in the future.

    Solar Victoria has introduced changes to the solar hot water rebate stream, including removing the current requirement for applicants to install a gas-boosted solar hot water system where they are connected to reticulated gas (unless they have an existing PV system greater than 2.5kW). The group welcomed these changes and felt that it would increase the appeal of the solar hot water rebate stream and improve consumer choice.

    The HHCU Program is set for launch in July, along with an Approved Supplier Panel, established through an Expression of Interest process. Solar Victoria advised that it had consulted Small Business Victoria and Industry Capability Network in designing the panel procurement but will consider the processes and investigate the availability of training in Victorian Government tendering. Solar Victoria advised members that they can apply to join the panel after the initial launch of the program, as the panel includes a rolling procurement.

    The group welcomed the Victorian Government’s response to the draft AEMC rulingExternal Link and Solar Victoria agreed to keep members informed of any significant changes moving forward.

    Solar Victoria gave an overview of the recent Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) report, Delivering the Solar Homes ProgramExternal Link . It also provided an overview of some of the key recommendations the organisation will implement, including the development of a business case to better inform government about the efficacy of the Solar Homes Program.

    Time of Use tariffs

    Jo Pafumi, representing Energy Networks AustraliaExternal Link , presented to the group on a new Time of Use tariff initiative that may save customers 7 per cent from their annual electricity bills and manage energy demand.

    The change encourages load shifting into the morning and midday for households, and between 9pm and 9am for businesses. This will help the grid to absorb excess solar being exported during the day and create a shift in the pricing structure for default customers or those who choose to opt-in to the setting.

    The tariff pricing will be passed onto the consumer through the retailers who will incorporate the prices into their customer plans.

    Solar for Business Program update

    Solar Victoria Director of Program Development and Implementation, Lashae Roulston, highlighted some of the key achievements in the Solar for Business Program. Across a broad range of industries, 490 applications have been submitted, 361 have been approved and 94 installs have been completed.

    Solar Victoria invited feedback on whether rental provider-led applications and loan for small businesses would be useful. Members welcomed the suggestions and confirmed that this would lead to an increase in commercial customers interested in getting solar panels.

    Overview of the Licensed Electrical Inspector training and improvements

    Neil Fraser from Energy Safe VictoriaExternal Link (ESV) provided members with an overview of the Licensed Electrical Inspectors (LEI) review.

    Solar Victoria and ESV are working together on a LEI Training initiativeExternal Link that aims to upskill existing LEIs to qualify for solar inspections. The training addresses the skill differences between regular inspections and solar inspections, including examining DC currents, polarity, earthing panels and Working Safely at Heights.

    Solar Victoria and the group predict that a range of initiatives, including the new training and mentoring initiatives, will help to decease the wait time for the inspections of solar installations.

    Members' insights and feedback – Standing agenda item

    The members’ insights, feedback and discussion covered a range of topics, including:

    • The ban on door-to-door sales was welcome but there are other areas of practice that the Government might consider regulating.
    • Solar businesses would value training on applying for Government tenders.
    • Solar panel cleaning is an emerging and related industry that includes a risk of people climbing on, and potentially damaging, solar panels. Solar Victoria should consider the possibility of training in this area.
    • The Clean Energy Council is investigating potential supply chain issues regarding solar panels sourced from Xinjiang Provence in China, in collaboration with an international working group.
    • It was suggested that Solar Victoria give an overview at future meeting on its processes for vulnerable customers.
    • The group suggested that safety in solar could be a focus by Solar Victoria and Clean Energy Council at All-Energy Australia 2021External Link in October.
    • Solar Victoria should consider promoting new initiatives in recycling of solar components in Victoria.
    • Working Safely in Solar training was attended by one member who praised it for being relevant, informative and appropriate for the industry.
  • The ICRG meeting held on 28 May 2021 covered the following:

    • battery aggregation pilot
    • the (now published) Solar Victoria Notice to Market
    • the (now published) Technology Guidelines
    • Working Safely in the Solar Industry mandatory training
    • Home Heating and Cooling Upgrades Program

    The Solar Victoria Notice to MarketExternal Link is an important document that confirms the value and volume of Solar Homes rebates each financial year. Members expressed concern about the delay in the publishing of the Notice to Market. Ideally it would in future be released some months prior to end of financial year.

    The recent publication of Solar Victoria’s Technology GuidelinesExternal Link was well received by the group, who were thanked for their input into the guidelines.

    Solar Victoria updated the group on its activities to support solar workers to complete the mandatory safety trainingExternal Link , currently due for completion by all participating solar on-site workers by 30 June 2021. On current completion rates (prior to the recent circuit-breaker COVID lockdown), Solar Victoria indicated that all solar on-site workers could have completed the training by the deadline.

    Solar Victoria also provided an update on the Home Heating and Cooling Upgrades ProgramExternal Link and confirmed it is now open to community housing organisations, with the public launch scheduled for mid-July 2021.

    Solar for Business Program

    Lashae Roulston, Director Program Development and Implementation, updated the group on the launch of the Solar for Business ProgramExternal Link . Prior to the launch, Solar Victoria held two industry webinars with over 200 attendees to update them on the retailer launch, program design and answer key questions.

    Solar Victoria also provided an update on the planned launch at the end of May, which was well received.

    New Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) Subsidy

    Jim Ellwood, Interim Director, ZEV Subsidy program, briefed the group on the ZEV SubsidyExternal Link which members were enthusiastic about and supportive of.

    The group also noted that, to create appropriate charging infrastructure, the location of ZEVs needs to be considered so that Distribution Network Service Providers (DNSPs) can plan the best locations for charging stations. Solar Victoria acknowledged the importance of this.

    Victorian Energy Efficiency Program update

    Sarah Stephen, Executive Director of Energy Demand and Helen Sofele, Director of Energy Efficiency, from the Energy Group at DELWP informed the members about the wide range of energy initiativesExternal Link currently underway that collectively aim to reduce emissions by 7 per cent by 2024.

    The members welcomed the information, with some solar retailers also working in energy efficiency.

    There were questions from members about the relationship between demand response and smart technology.

    The group was informed that smart technology will play a soft role in the upgrades, where people are able to get real-time information on their energy use to enable smarter decision-making. This will be complemented through building energy-management systems with smart-controls connected to home devices. In addition, new-builds may incorporate smart-service statistics in some properties to enable devices to load-shift.

    There are aims to introduce program incentives that will reduce demand at times where energy is the most valuable or the local network is constrained. The group heard that a consultation paper addressing this matter will be released in July, and that major reform will occur through amendments to the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target Act 2007External Link .

    Members asked about the demand management incentives, noting that many DNSPs already offer these. DELWP Energy invited members to work collaboratively on these incentives and noted that there are battery aggregation issues that may be worth collaborating on as well.

  • The ICRG meeting held on 28 April 2021 covered the following, which were discussed with the Minister for Solar Homes who also attended:

    Update on LEI discussions and industry roundtables

    Paul Corkill, Director of Risk, Assurance and Standards, informed the Group of the initiatives that Solar Victoria has been involved in to address the Licensed Electrical Inspector (LEI) shortage:

    • During April, WorkSafe, Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) and Solar Victoria met to develop new LEI training materials and to discuss providing the opportunity for existing LEIs to upskill through solar-specific training.
    • There will be a focus on improving communication between LEIs and customers to assist both parties in the appointment-making process.
    • A proposed LEI inspection checklist has been prepared and submitted to ESV for final consideration, before eventually rolling it out on a trial basis.

    Operational performance and continuous improvement

    Lyn Bowring, Executive Director of Customer Experience, informed the Group about the process of introducing new and streamlined systems to improve the customer experience at Solar Victoria.

    There have been approximately 50 program or process changes made since 1 July 2020, and April 2021 saw the introduction of the ‘Prove it Once’ initiative. This has enabled concession card holders to input card details rather than upload documents – over 1,600 applicants have utilised the new process, saving an average of three minutes per online application.

    March 2021 recorded the highest volume of payment requests since the program began, which has increased some turnaround times and delayed some payment processing. As a result, there has been more activity in the contact centre and longer wait times for customers inquiring about the status of the payments. To address this, Solar Victoria has:

    • employed more Customer Service Officers
    • reduced staff turnover
    • introduced specialist training
    • improved the 1300 call center queue options.
  • 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 announcedExternal Link 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.auExternal Link

  • 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.auExternal Link

  • 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.auExternal Link

  • 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.auExternal Link

  • Joanne Pafumi, CitiPower, Powercor and United Energy

    Joanne Pafumi is the General Manager Corporate Affairs for electricity distribution networks CitiPower, Powercor and United Energy. Her team aims to build customer and stakeholder trust in the networks to deliver reliable, safe and affordable power and enable new energy choices. This includes supporting direct customer relationships for all forms of network connections including solar PV and emerging technologies.

    Joanne brings a diverse background in mining and resources and experience in community development, socio-economic planning and Indigenous affairs.

    Joanne holds a Bachelor of Communication, a Graduate Diploma of Applied Finance and Investment and is a graduate of the Company Directors Course (Australian Institute of Company Directors).

    www.powercor.com.auExternal Link

    www.unitedenergy.com.auExternal Link

  • 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.auExternal Link

  • Mathew Delaney, Advanced Energy Management

    Mathew Delaney is a second-generation electrician with 25 years’ experience working in commercial, industrial, telecommunications and rail projects in both new installations and maintenance. He has worked in all states of Australia and on major installations in the United Kingdom.

    Mathew has worked in the renewable energy sector for the past 12 years and in roles that include installation, project management, sales, procurement, process development and service/maintenance within the solar industry and electrical industry.

    More recently he has focused on his own business, Advanced Energy Management (AEM), which has operated since 2012 as an electrical contracting company specialising in PV and renewables servicing both residential and commercial customers. He is a director and manager of AEM. AEM operates Australia-wide as a solutions-based company with a client focus, priding itself on providing industry-leading products, installation and service.

    Mathew has a passion for renewables and compliance within the electrical industry and values the opportunity to give back to the industry through participation as member of the Solar Victoria ICRG.

    www.advancedem.com.auExternal Link

  • 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 ScorecardExternal Link .

    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.auExternal Link

  • 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.auExternal Link

  • 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 EnergyExternal Link (AWISE).

    www.totalsolarsolutions.com.auExternal Link

  • 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.auExternal Link

  • 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.auExternal Link

  • 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.comExternal Link

  • Sophie Wright

    Sophie is Sales Manager at Vortex Electrical and 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 12 December 2022