The solar industry expels its ire against the government of Queensland, requests review



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Australian solar industry officials on Wednesday expressed their frustration and anger at Queensland government officials in an attempt to have new rules that require electricians to be hired to perform late and revised manual tasks.

RenewEconomy writers have reported on renewable energy and climate policy for more than a decade through repeated strikes against the price of carbon, the goal of renewables and other policy measure, but never witnessed the level of fury and exasperation about this new rule.

Some say the impacts could be so severe that they could threaten the state's ability to reach its 50% renewable energy target by 2030.

"I'm ready to strangle someone," said a senior executive at a solar development company following a 90-minute meeting at the Queensland government offices in Brisbane on Wednesday afternoon, with the participation of 12 developers and solar industry contractors and others 15-20. On the phone.

Solar energy developers warn of major disruptions, delays, job losses and rising costs as a result of the decision announced by Queensland's Minister of Industrial Relations Grace Grace, which mandates that electricians only take care of solar panels – this includes the manual process of mounting tens of thousands of panels on a large solar farm.

Not even trainees and apprentices of electricians can do the work. "It's just shocking," said another participant.

Developers fear it will be nearly impossible to find enough skilled electricians, and teams that have been hired to work ashore will have to be waived.

They anticipate delays, which will result in lost revenue and increased financial costs – not to mention higher labor costs – if they can find the electricians. All workers will have to fly by plane, not hired locally.

"You simply will not find many electricians available in Chinchilla," one of them said. "And which qualified electricians will want to fly from Sydney or Brisbane just for household chores."

The Clean Energy Board puts the potential cost impact increase by up to 4.5% for a large solar farm, or about $ 9 million for a "mid-average" project cost of $ 207 million (100MW).

There is concern that installers who specialize in large commercial installations – over 100kW – will be particularly affected and may have to fire employees because they will no longer be able to do the work they need.

As we reported last week, Danin Kahn of Today Solar and Huon Hoogesteger of Smart Commercial Solar warned that many projects would simply not follow in such conditions.

The Queensland government claims that the additional cost for large-scale solar plants will be less than 1.5%, but the industry notes that it is only considering the cost of labor, not the other impacts, and not even the cost of flying in electricians Some private developers have suggested cost increases of 7%.

The solar industry is particularly upset that it has not been consulted. There was no consultation with industry representatives, the Clean Energy Council only discovered by chance, and while invited to make a submission felt that it was ignored and was more or less said that it was a fait accompli.

It is believed that the primary thrust came from the main union, the ETU, which was hampered by the prolonged use of backpackers in some situations. Local network operators, other unions, the network lobby group and a business lobby group were consulted, according to the government.

Participants at the meeting on Wednesday said the authority insisted it was a "security" issue, but provided no evidence of where security issues were emerging.

"We are asking the Queensland government to postpone this regulatory change so that genuine consultation can be carried out with the industry," said CEC's Anna Freeman in a written statement.

"The regulation was rushed without meaningful consultation with the industry or opportunity for the industry to understand the security issues that the new regulation seeks to address.

"The appropriate process for the government to follow would be to commission a statement of regulatory impact, along with a meaningful consultation with those affected by the change.

"The security benefits of these changes are unfounded, with the government failing to disclose the results of the security audits it conducted in 2018. The notices of non-compliance we have been cited so far appear to be violations of existing legislation, why a costly new regulation is needed ".

Freeman echoed the concerns of solar energy developers – including those who have just started building, or are about to, that the new rules effectively cut local communities a significant slice of the job opportunities created by new developments in solar farms.

"The government will effectively be forcing large-scale solar proponents to rely heavily on FIFO workers," Freeman said. The industry has been working to avoid this whenever possible because we recognize that job opportunities during the construction phase are one of the key benefits these projects can offer to regional communities. "

"Queensland has a significant and commendable goal to get 50% renewable energy by 2030. This will require government and industry to work cooperatively together to maintain the momentum of transition," she said.

"This regulation will not help us achieve this goal and we urge the government to postpone the introduction of this regulation so that industry-wide consultation can take place and we can find a less costly solution to achieve our shared safety objectives."

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