Businesses have been asking labourers to down tools and scrambling to source electricians as a new rule impacts solar farm construction in Queensland, the Clean Energy Council says.
Council director of energy generation Anna Freeman said the new regulation – which will apply to projects of 100kW or more – had been brought in with virtually no consultation and very little warning.
The new regulations required licensed electrical workers to perform tasks such as lifting, mounting and fixing unplugged solar panels.
“The mounting of electrical equipment is not even classed as electrical work under the state Electrical Safety Act (2002), and it could easily be performed by local labourers and trades assistants as it has to date,” Ms Freeman said.
“This new regulation is like requiring university librarians to be fully qualified professors, or cafe wait staff to be qualified chefs. It’s absurd.”
Ms Freeman said solar projects would be delayed where electricians could not be sourced, exposing businesses to hefty penalty payments.
“The higher costs associated with imposing this change mean that investment in Queensland will slow and some investment decisions will be shelved. We have already been told by a number of our members that their projects now look more uncertain due to this new regulation,” she said.
Safety first says minister
Announcing the new regulations last month, Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace described it as a matter of putting safety first in the booming renewables industry.
“The Palaszczuk Government is committed to achieving 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030,” Ms Grace said.
“As a result, we’ve seen unprecedented growth in the number of commercial solar farms in Queensland and that means jobs for installers.
“These new regulations are all about ensuring we keep pace with new and emerging technologies and keep workers safe.”
Ms Grace said stakeholders were concerned about unlicensed workers such as backpackers and labourers mounting and removing live solar panels.
National Electrical and Communications Association Executive Director Peter Lamont said at the time that the changes would make the solar industry safer.
“The mounting, locating, fixing, earthing and removing of solar panels at solar farms is dangerous work and it should not be undertaken by unlicensed workers. We fully support the new changes,” Mr Lamont said.