A CEC solar retailer is a company that markets and sells PV systems. It is recognised by Australia’s solar energy regulator (the Clean Energy Council or CEC) as offering standard products and services that benefit both consumers and the industry as a whole. 

A CEC solar installer is a CEC-accredited individual who installs PV systems and has the requisite knowledge and expertise for safe and reliable solar installations.

Deciding what PV system to choose can be tricky given the large number of solar retailers on the market.

Consumers will also want to ensure that they buy from a retailer committed to a high level of service who will correctly and safely install their solar system to guarantee continuous optimal solar generation.

The CEC solar retailer program and the solar installer program help individuals source solar retailers and installers they can trust.

At the end of this article, you’ll know exactly what a CEC-approved solar retailer is, what a CEC-approved solar installer is, and the difference between the two. 

Let’s start by explaining the CEC’s role in the solar energy market. 

The CEC and the Renewable Energy Industry

The CEC (Clean Energy Council) is the peak body representing Australia’s renewable energy and energy efficiency industry. It’s also the governing council for the major players in the clean energy industry, including solar retailers and installers.

In the fledgling days of the solar industry in Australia, scores of solar companies flooded the market with products and services that fell far below the standard expected by consumers.

The CEC stepped in to restore a semblance of order to the industry. Its priority is to raise standards and maintain integrity in the solar industry. It does this through various means, including developing guidelines for Australia’s solar industry and accrediting solar retailers and installers across the country.

The CEC also promotes renewable energy and publishes annual reports about Australia’s burgeoning renewable energy industry. 

What is a CEC-Approved Solar Retailer?

A CEC-approved solar retailer is a business that markets and sells solar PV systems under the current standards and regulations. 

This means the retailer has signed up to the CEC Code of Conduct, thereby committing to ethical business practices and the industry’s best practices, as outlined by the Clean Energy Council.

The CEC Code of Conduct addresses four broad areas:

Pre-sale Activities

  • To safeguard consumers against misleading and dishonest sales tactics.
  • To ensure that sales representatives always deal with consumers and conduct marketing campaigns in an ethical manner.
  • To provide individuals with the necessary information that allows them a complete understanding of the purchase.

Post-sale Activities

  • To make certain that retailers respect consumers’ legal rights, especially those relating to cooling-off periods, deposits, and refunds.
  • To guarantee that consumers have the right to cancel a contract, especially when unapproved changes are made after purchase.
  • To reassure consumers that the solar power system they receive is correctly installed per existing regulations, standards, and CEC guidelines.
  • To set a standard minimum warranty period for consumers that covers the operation and performance of the entire solar system. The retailer is held responsible for resolving any dispute that might arise during this period.

Documentation

  • To make sure, after installing the solar PV system, the consumer is given the required documentation.
  • To establish that consumers and retailers are fully aware of who is responsible for providing the relevant documentation.

General Business

  • To confirm that the retailer adheres to existing legislation and regulations and maintains consistent business practices. This includes, but is not limited to, having a fair and transparent complaints process. 

Signing up to the CEC Code of Conduct means that the approved solar retailer commits to responsible sales and marketing activities, as well as complying with the industry’s best practices. As a result, CEC-approved retailers can be trusted to offer standard PV products and services that will benefit consumers and the solar industry. 

The Clean Energy Council usually takes action against approved solar retailers that fail to adhere to the CEC solar retailer Code of Conduct requirements. 

The Compliance Activity page on the CEC website contains a summary of breaches and actions taken against offenders.

Retailers can be penalised for violations such as:

  • Making false and misleading statements. 
  • Failing to honour a warranty for services rendered.
  • Being unresponsive to and dealing inappropriately with the customer.
  • Using high-pressure sales tactics.

So, as a consumer, you can rest assured that your protection is secured when you purchase solar systems from CEC-approved solar retailers.

These retailers have measurably higher standards than their peers. You are less likely to be deceived by misleading marketing or sales pitches, guaranteed to receive products as described, and more likely to receive quality after-sale services like customer service and warranties. 

How to Know That You Are Using a CEC-approved Retailer?

CEC approval is a clear endorsement that the retailer provides quality products and services and that it complies with relevant legislation and standards in all its business practices.

As a result, all CEC-approved solar retailers proudly display the official approval logo. All you need to do is look for the logo below for reassurance that you are using a CEC-approved solar retailer.

CEC approval logo

You can also check the “Find an Approved Solar Retailer” page on the CEC website to confirm if a particular retailer in your area is CEC-approved. As of writing (May 10th 2022), there were 1,423 CEC-approved retailers listed on the site. InstyleSolar is proud to be one of the few solar companies listed as CEC-accredited retailers.

What is a CEC Solar Installer?

A CEC solar installer is an individual recognised by the Clean Energy Council as having the knowledge and expertise needed to install safe and reliable solar power systems.

Using an approved solar installer is mandatory for claiming government incentives. The solar rebate programs of many Australian states require the usage of CEC-approved installers for your installation.  

CEC Installer Accreditation Process

Becoming a CEC-accredited installer is a complex process, but we can summarise it in five distinct steps:

Complete Training

The Clean Energy Council wants to ensure that every solar PV system is correctly installed and safe to use. The first requirement for prospective CEC-accredited installers is adequate training. These training sessions must be conducted in registered training organisations (RTOs).

Apply for Provisional CEC Accreditation

After completion of training, PV installers can apply for provisional accreditation. Because they have yet to be formally assessed, this temporary certification comes without an accreditation number. Think of it as a respectful nod to carry on PV installations, not an implicit stamp of approval.

PV installers must submit training certificates, public liability insurance worth at least $5 million, an electrical license, and a “working safely at heights” certificate when applying for Provisional CEC Accreditation.

Complete Online Assessment

To prove their knowledge, installers must undergo an online examination. When an individual has successfully completed the evaluation, they will receive an accreditation number and become a CEC-accredited installer. 

Complete a Practical Installation Assessment

The Clean Energy Council believes that theoretical knowledge is insufficient for something as technical as PV installation, so installers must also show evidence of previously installing solar or battery systems.

However, a practical installation assessment isn’t mandatory if you are just seeking to be a CEC-accredited designer.

Upgrade to Full Accreditation

After completing the practical installation test, the installer can apply for full accreditation. 

Annual Renewal

Accreditation is valid for only one year, so the installer needs to make annual renewals to remain CEC-accredited. However, this requires undertaking eligible training to ensure that the installer stays up to date with changes in the industry.

Add Additional Accreditation

There are various CEC accreditation types available for the different PV system types. To qualify to install any particular PV system, you may want to add the corresponding accreditation to your portfolio. 

How Do You Know That You Are Using CEC-approved Installers?

To ensure you are dealing with a CEC-accredited installer, just ask to see their accreditation ID card. It’s a digital ID card, so the accredited installer will display it for you on a phone or tablet.

The information displayed on the digital ID card includes:

  • The installer’s photograph
  • Their accreditation number
  • The expiry date of the ID card
  • The type of accreditation that the installer holds.

Differences between CEC Retailers and CEC Installers

The main differences between CEC retailers and CEC installers lie in their identity, function, and approval requirements.

1. CEC Retailers are Companies, While CEC Installers are People.

CEC retailers are Clean Energy Council-approved companies that market and sell PV systems. These include companies selling PV to residential and SME consumers and those selling PV to medium and large-scale business consumers.

However, only certain PV selling businesses will qualify for CEC-approved solar retailer status. These organisations must have at least 12 months of experience in the solar industry.

In the case of CEC solar installers, they are individuals approved by the CEC to install solar systems.

Similarly, there are prerequisites for being a CEC installer. The individual in question must be an electrician with a valid electrical license.

Virtually all the accredited retailers have accredited installers who work with them to ensure you get the best service from pre-sale to commissioning your solar power system. As a Clean Energy Council certified retailer, all installations made by InstyleSolar are capably performed by CEC-accredited installers.

2. Retailers Sell PV systems, While installers Deal with Installing PV Systems.

A crucial distinction between a CEC-approved solar retailer and a CEC-approved solar installer lies in their roles/ functions. While the CEC-approved retailer focuses on the marketing and sales of solar power systems, the approved installer prioritises solar installation.

The approved solar retailer program guarantees that businesses selling solar and storage systems comply with the industry’s best practices and operate ethically. Likewise, the approved solar installer program establishes that responsible individuals install safe and reliable systems.

3. Becoming a CEC installer Involves Training and Assessment, While Becoming a CEC Retailer Involves an Audit.

There’s no need for a company to undertake specialised training before applying to become a CEC retailer.

All they need to do is demonstrate their business experience in the solar industry and comply with all aspects of the CEC Approved Retailer Code of Conduct (such as providing customers with a minimum 5-year warranty). The company must also agree to an external audit (integrity/ financial check) organised and paid for by the Clean Energy Council.

However, the path to becoming a CEC installer begins with training. The aspiring electrician must participate in eligible training from a registered training organisation (RTO). After the training, the individual will undergo assessments of their knowledge and expertise.

Summary of Differences Between CEC-approved Solar Retailers and Solar Installers

Solar RetailerSolar Installer
IdentityA solar company or solar businessAn individual
FunctionMarketing and sales of PV systemsInstallation of PV systems
Core requirement12+ months of experience in the solar industry
Compliance with the CEC Code of Conduct
Electrical license
Working from heights license 
Verification External auditOnline assessment
Practical installation assessment

What are CEC Approved Solar Panels?

Clean Energy Council approved solar panels are panels that the CEC has deemed safe and high-quality solar modules, manufactured by trustworthy solar PV manufacturers. Panels undergo a series of tests to determine if a panel is eligible. These test determine if a panel meets required product standards, is certified for the Australian market, and meets CEC terms and conditions. All approved panels are eligible to receive Small-scale technology certificates.

Next Steps…

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