A Queensland Court of Appeal has determined to uphold a Supreme Court ruling to overturn state government regulation around the implementation of solar farms.
Under the legislation, licensed electrical workers were required to locate, mount, fix and remove unplugged solar panels at solar projects above 100 kilowatts. The legislation was strongly opposed by the industry, with concerns that it would add significant costs and provide no clear benefit.
The Clean Energy Council stated that the appeal decision was a good result for regional jobs and communities in Queensland.
Clean Energy Council Chief Executive, Kane Thornton, said the development and introduction of the state government’s regulation had been rushed.
“The industry should never have had to go through the courts to resolve something that could easily have been worked out with a full and proper consultation process.
“Queensland’s courts have now determined twice that the government’s regulation requiring licensed electricians to do the work of labourers and trades assistants is inconsistent with the Electrical Safety Act. That is because it is not electrical work.
“This decision is good news for regional jobs and communities, and good news for the clean energy transition in Queensland.”
Queensland Minister for Industrial Relations, Grace Grace, said, “The Palaszczuk Government accepts the decision of the Court of Appeal but is disappointed by the result.
“The decision is about a technical legal ruling and does not deal with the substantive safety reasoning behind the making of the solar farms regulation.
“The government acted on the advice of an expert safety panel and Crown Law in relation to the making of the regulation.
“My department is currently considering the full extent of the decision, including whether legislative changes are required.”
Ms Grace said the appeal decision clearly highlighted that Queensland’s electrical safety laws had not kept pace with new and emerging technologies, including large-scale solar farms.
“The Electrical Safety Act has not undergone any significant changes in 17 years. A great deal of technological change and the emergence of new industries have occurred since this time,” she said.
“It is important our safety laws reflect contemporary industry and are able to respond to new and emerging industries, such as large-scale solar farms.
“Labourers jobs were never under threat. What the regulations did was to provide clarity on the safety standards for electrical work on solar farms to ensure the safety of all workers and the community at large. There were many jobs that labourers could continue to do under the regulations.
“The safety risks for workers installing solar panels on large-scale solar farms, including electrical shock and fire, are very real and remains a significant concern for the government.
“There are no second chances when it comes to electrical safety.”