Roundtable call after court rules against government solar regulations

Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace has asked the Electrical Safety Commissioner to convene an urgent industry roundtable on safety in large-scale solar farms.

It comes after the Court of Appeal dismissed the government’s application to overturn a recent ruling invalidating solar farm safety regulations which came into effect last month.

The regulations in question require licensed electrical workers to locate, mount, fix and remove unplugged solar panels at solar projects above 100 kilowatts.

The decision against that legislation was welcomed by the Clean Energy Council, which described it as good news for regional jobs and communities.

“The industry should never have had to go through the courts to resolve something that could easily have been worked out with a full and proper consultation process,” Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton said.

“Queensland’s courts have now determined twice that the government’s regulation requiring licensed electricians to do the work of labourers and trades assistants is inconsistent with the Electrical Safety Act. That is because it is not electrical work.”

But Ms Grace said the Court of Appeal decision hinged on a technical legal ruling and did not deal with the substantive safety reasoning behind the making of the solar farms regulation.

“The government acted on the advice of an expert safety panel and Crown Law in relation to the making of the regulation,” she said.

“My department is currently considering the full extent of the decision, including whether legislative changes are required.”

Ms Grace said the decision clearly highlighted that Queensland’s electrical safety laws had not kept pace with new and emerging technologies, including large-scale solar farms.

“The safety risks for workers installing solar panels on large-scale solar farms, including electrical shock and fire, are very real and remains a significant concern for the government,” she said.

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