Melbourne solar installers back to work as Covid-19 restrictions ease


Solar installers in Victoria have been restricted since the beginning of August when the Victorian Government imposed a range of measures relating to how work could be carried out in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria under the Covid-19 lockdown.

During the lockdown installations continued in regional Victoria under certain conditions but it was not so simple in Melbourne where installers were restricted to having no more than five people working on unoccupied sites only, meaning new building sites were prioritised.

Those restrictions have now been eased and solar installers can undertake outdoor installations at occupied residential premises.

Those working on residential homes in metropolitan Melbourne must however adhere to a list of specific conditions, including there must be no more than five workers onsite, all work must be conducted outdoors, fitted face masks and physical distancing must be maintained, and all businesses must have a COVIDSafe plan in place for onsite operations.

The Clean Energy Council (CEC) has said it is still waiting on clarification from Solar Victoria on some outstanding questions, including the situation where some elements of an install need to done inside a premises.

For those installers working in regional Victoria there are no restrictions on the number of workers allowed but a COVIDSafe Plan must be in place for each site.

Smart Energy Council CEO John Grimes told pv magazine the winding back of restrictions was welcome.

“This is excellent news and much-needed relief for the solar and battery storage industry,” he said. “It is fantastic that solar workers can now safely get back to work.

“It is now imperative that all onsite solar work is done to the highest levels of safety, and infection control. Our industry has a serious obligation not to put at risk the hard-fought progress the Victorian community has made.”

The Covid-19 restrictions triggered a dramatic drop in the number of small-scale solar power module installations completed in Victoria in the three months to September.

Figures released by industry analysts SunWiz show an almost 50% reduction, down from a high of 60 MW in July to just 31 MW in September.

The easing of restrictions is expected to deliver a rapid increase in rooftop installations and a corresponding increase in the amount of energy generated.

Solar Victoria said applications for rebates had remained strong throughout 2020, and the state’s solar industry has a large pipeline of work awaiting it.

Some Melbourne-based installers have indicated they are already booked out until March 2021 and Solar Victoria CEO Stan Krpan said it is incumbent upon the installers to look after their backlog of customers.

“All retailers and installers should ensure oldest approved customer applications, with closest approaching installation deadlines, are dealt with first,” he said.

“This way, your customers who’ve been waiting the longest can start to benefit sooner from clean, affordable energy.”

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