Anna Freeman, the Clean Energy Council’s Director of Energy Generation, 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.
“Across Queensland in the last few days, businesses have been asking labourers to down tools, and scrambling to source electricians to take over the straightforward task of panel mounting,” she said.
“The affected workers were trained, experienced and entirely capable of doing the mechanical tasks of mounting unconnected 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.
“This new regulation is like requiring university librarians to be fully qualified professors, or cafe wait staff to be qualified chefs. It’s absurd,” she said.
Ms Freeman said projects will be delayed where electricians cannot be found to do the work, 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.
“We are particularly concerned about this regulation locking communities out of many employment opportunities at solar farms in regional parts of the state, in return for expensive fly-in fly-out arrangements with electricians from metro areas. We need to be doing more – not less – to maximise the local employment opportunities from the clean energy transition.
“In the short term, Queenslanders can expect the asking price of electricians to increase, due to the sharp increase in electricians that will be required to complete large-scale solar projects.”
Ms Freeman said that the industry was deeply disappointed that the Palaszczuk Government, which had otherwise been very supportive of clean energy, would impose such a costly change without consultation, and without a single safety incident or breach demonstrating the need for the change.
“We think that this puts Queensland’s chances of reaching its 50 per cent renewable energy target at risk. We are calling on the government to rethink this costly and pointless regulation and come back to the table to find an alternative approach to dealing with its stated safety concerns.”