Key industry body the Master Electricians Australia has added its voice to the growing chorus of opposition to the Queensland Labor government's big solar rule change, and thrown its support behind a parliamentary push to scrap the regulation and start again.
The Electrical safety (solar farms) amendment regulation 2019 – introduced on Monday – requires the mounting, locating, fixing and removal of solar panels on projects and installations of 100kW and over in Queensland to be performed by licensed electricians, only.
The Labor Palaszczuk government, which has set a 50 per cent renewable energy target for the state to be met by 2030, has argued the new rule is necessary to improve safety on large solar projects in the state.
But it has struggled to find any solar businesses or industry groups that agree. Rather, popular opinion is that the rule change - widely thought to have been driven by the Electrical Trades Union - is unfounded, unnecessary, and potentially devastating to commercial and utility-scale solar projects and jobs in the state.
And it turns out that the electricians themselves, via the MEA, which was part of the original 'steering group of technical and safety experts' established last July to advise government on the solar farm code, are not fans of the rule either.
In fact, according to MEA chief Malcolm Richards, the final regulation – rushed through by the state's department of Industrial Relations – is vastly different to what industry had been told would be implemented.
'The government promised to consult with the industry, and paid lip service to that idea. But the devil is always in the detail, and now we can see the detail is no good,' Richards said in the statement on Wednesday.
'Our members didn't do a four-year electrical apprenticeship so they could lift heavy solar panels.
'These new regulations add nothing but red tape to solar farm installations. They don't enhance safety, they don't improve performance and they don't boost clean energy production,' he said.
'What they will do is drive up the cost of building a new solar farm, and tie up electrical businesses in unnecessary regulation.
'And by requiring electricians to perform work that has traditionally been done by trades assistants – lifting solar panels into place – they are already leading to job losses in some sectors off the industry,' Richards said.
'Master Electricians Australia supports the disallowance motion. Parliament should scrap this regulation and start again.'
Sophie is editor of One Step Off The Grid
and deputy editor of its sister site, Renew Economy
. Sophie has been writing about clean energy for more than a decade.