By Marnie Banger / news.com,au / 20 December 2018

An audit of rooftop solar panels have found at least a fifth were unsafe, sparking warnings about potential deaths.

Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor has urged states and territories to protect Australians from poorly installed rooftop solar panels after an audit found at least a fifth of inspected units were unsafe.

Mr Taylor highlighted the “severity of the issue” in a letter to state and territory energy ministers, sent last week.

“We want to make sure safety comes first,” he told The Australian on Thursday. “This is a rapidly growing industry and we can’t risk people’s lives.”

A national audit of the Renewable Energy Target found between 21 and 26 per cent of rooftop solar units inspected each year since 2001 had faulty wiring and unsecured panels.

In his letter, Mr Taylor stressed the rapid growth of the small-scale solar industry could pose risks to consumers and installation workers and asked his counterparts to manage the risks.

“This level of growth will bring many new electricians to the industry and potentially a large number of inexperienced workers, and may also attract lower quality suppliers and unscrupulous operators,” he wrote.

State and territory energy ministers reportedly refused to discuss the issue at a Council of Australian Governments energy meeting in Adelaide on Wednesday. But NSW Energy Minister Don Harwin said the ministers noted the issue was “incredibly important” and that another COAG group focused on workplace safety is looking at the issue.

“We need to make sure there are quality providers and that there are good standards,” he told ABC Radio National on Thursday.

The federal government did have a win at the meeting, with ministers agreeing to changes to National Electricity Law to add a Retailer Reliability Obligation. Under the obligation — expected to kick off in July — power companies will be forced to demonstrate they have entered into sufficient contracts for dispatchable power to cover their share of peak demand.

An attempt by Mr Harwin to force the federal government to tackle climate change at the meeting was shut down.

He tried to get the leaders to discuss putting an emissions obligation into national energy policy, but his fellow Liberal Mr Taylor refused to add it to the agenda.

The NSW Liberal said he was disappointed the issue didn’t get discussed. He has also denied that an opinion piece published on Wednesday in which he urged the federal Liberal-National coalition to end the “climate wars” was a switch of tact aimed at wooing voters.

“We haven’t changed our position,” he said.

“NSW has believed all along that we need a sensible national approach.”


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