CEC accreditation: What is it and why is it so important?
When you’re investing in a rooftop solar PV system, it is important to do your homework and learn more about the solar energy industry. The Clean Energy Council (or CEC) is the regulatory body for the renewable energy industry in Australia.
The CEC is a not-for-profit, membership-based organisation which represents and works with renewable energy and energy storage businesses, as well as rooftop solar installers, to support renewable energy in Australia.
To help support households and businesses investing in renewable energy across Australia, the CEC provides a Clean Energy Council accreditation for solar installers. They also develop guidelines and contribute to developing Australian Standards.
There are currently more than 8,000 CEC accredited solar installers around Australia.
The role of the Clean Energy Council (CEC)
If you’re wondering how to choose a solar installation company, it’s helpful to understand what to look for in a solar company. Understanding the role of the CEC and how CEC accreditation is achieved can help you make an informed decision about the company you choose to supply and install your solar PV system or battery storage system.
The role of the CEC includes:
Accreditation and certificationSolar PV system and battery installers can apply for CEC accreditation, as well as certification for products and systems that meet industry standards determined by the CEC.
Industry advocacyThe CEC represents its members’ interests and advocates for policies to support more renewable energy and energy efficiency in Australia. For example, the CEC lobbies for research and development funding, supports investment in infrastructure and helps develop the regulatory frameworks needed to support renewable energy in Australia.
Industry events and educationThe CEC hosts industry events, education and training programs including workshops, seminars, and conferences such as the Australian Wind Industry Summit.
Research and analysisExploring industry trends, policy developments and the latest renewable energy technology is also an important part of the CEC’s role in Australia. This research provides analysis and insights for CEC members and the wider energy industry.
Through CEC accreditation of solar installers in Australia, maintaining lists of approved solar PV systems or battery storage systems, developing guidelines and contributing to Australian Standards, the CEC plays an important role in Australia’s renewable energy transition.
Any organisation operating in the renewable energy industry can apply for Clean Energy Council membership, with different levels of paid memberships available depending on the organisation's business and its role in the renewable energy industry.
Members can access a range of benefits including networking opportunities and conferences in the renewable energy industry. These benefits are provided to the member organisations or businesses, rather than to customers buying solar power infrastructure or battery storage systems.
What to look for in a solar panel installation company:
Companies may benefit from being a Clean Energy Council Member– but their membership alone won’t provide you as a customer with any benefits, assurances of quality or dispute resolution processes.
What is CEC accreditation and approval?
There are actually two types of accreditation and approval the CEC oversees – one for solar installers and/or designers and another for solar retailers.
CEC Accredited Installers
Solar installers and designers can apply for CEC accreditation to demonstrate they are competent in the design and/or installation of solar PV systems.
Solar installers seeking accreditation go through an accreditation process with the CEC which includes specific training units. It is important to note that this accreditation is personal and only available to individual solar PV system designers and installers, not an entire solar installation company and all staff.
Small scale technology certificates (STC) can be created on the purchase and installation of eligible small-scale renewable energy systems, such as solar PV systems. Once created, STCs can be sold or retained by the solar installer to provide a rebate or discount to customers on the purchase price of an installed solar PV system. One of the requirements to claim a STC on a solar PV system is that a CEC accredited installer must have designed and installed the solar PV system.
There’s no such thing as a “CEC Accredited Business” so seek clarification from any solar company who claims this. Not all solar companies are the same – so do your research.
What to look for in a solar PV system installation company
As mentioned, CEC accreditation is generally expected of solar PV system installers – but always check that the installers who will be installing your solar PV system are actually accredited. Some solar PV system installers might promote their CEC accreditation to entice customers, but then try to reduce installation costs by having unaccredited labourers or roofers complete most of the installation work.
CEC Approved Solar Retailer - New Energy Tech Consumer Code (NETCC)
As of February 2023, the New Energy Tech Consumer Code (NETCC) has replaced the previous CEC Approved Retailer scheme.
From 2013 until 2023, the Clean Energy Council Solar Retailer Code of Conduct and Approved Retailer Scheme was a voluntary scheme for solar PV system retailers. Solar retailers could show their commitment to best practice in the industry and their support for responsible sales and marketing activities by participating in the scheme.
The Clean Energy Council now administers a new consumer code, the NETCC. Similarly, to the CEC Solar Retailer Code of Conduct, the NETCC is also a voluntary code of conduct designed to improve consumer protection standards in renewable energy technologies across Australia, including the marketing, sale and supply of solar PV systems, home batteries, electric vehicle chargers and other new energy tech.
The NETCC is authorised by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and aims to raise behaviour of businesses in the industry above the minimum government regulations and requirements, to promotes better standards of service for consumers.
The NETCC expands the original CEC Approved Retailer program by as the scope of covers not just solar and battery system retailers, but retailers offering a range of other new energy tech products and services.
Look for New Energy Tech Approved Sellers
High pressure sales tactics and one sided clauses in solar PV system purchase and installation contracts are some of the red flags of a solar retailer you want to avoid – and one of the key drivers behind the New Energy Tech standards for 'Approved Sellers' in the NETCC.
The NETCC’s standards for Approved Sellers include requirements around sales and marketing to promote honest and transparent processes; quotes and contracts to that are clear and easy to understand to mitigate hidden costs or nasty surprises for consumers; delivery and installation; consumer support to deal with any issues and complaints in a timely way and honour warranties.
Solar PV system providers need to show they meet the requirements to become a New Energy Tech Approved Seller, and must demonstrate that they are committed to ongoing compliance with the NETCC standards.
Once accredited, New Energy Tech Approved Sellers may be audited to check their practices adhere to the requirements in the NETCC.
Being a New Energy Tech Approved Seller is very different from a CEC Accredited Installer. There are currently over 8,000 CEC accredited installers throughout Australia, but just over 1,000 New Energy Tech Approved Sellers.
For your peace of mind when working out how to choose a solar company, it is worth looking for New Energy Tech Approved Sellers – and not just CEC accredited installers. All previously Approved Solar Retailers automatically became New Energy Tech Approved Sellers and may need support from the NETCC to meet further requirements to become fully compliant with the new program. It is worthwhile to do your homework before you choose your solar PV system retailer and installer.
There can be many things to investigate and research when you are considering investing in a solar PV system. Learning about the difference between LGCs and STCs, and why they matter is another important topic if you are considering investing in solar PV system for your home or business.