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Who can work on large-scale solar farms?

Who we are

We are Victoria’s safety regulator for electricity, gas and pipelines.

Our role is to ensure that Victorian gas and electricity industries are safe and meet community expectations. We are also responsible for licensing and registering electricians, and educating the community about energy safety.

Requirements

Following enquiries from industry, other regulators and electrical workers it is important that ESV provides clarity on the compliance requirements for this type of electrical installation work.

Below is an explanation of these requirements.

  • A licensed electrician must install any electrical equipment that normally operates at a voltage greater than extra low voltage (ELV), that is, 50V ac or 120V ripple free dc in an electrical installation.
  • Electrical equipment is defined as any appliance, wire, fitting, cable, conduit or apparatus that generates, uses, conveys or controls (or that is intended to generate, use, convey or control) electricity.
  • An electrical installation is electrical equipment that is fixed or to be fixed in, on, under or over any land but does not include a supply network that is owned or operated by a major electricity company.All electrical equipment that operates at a voltage greater than ELV must be installed and connected by a licensed electrician.

Exceptions

  • An apprentice electrician or supervised electrical worker can perform the work if supervised by a licensed electrician. An apprentice electrician is a person who has a contract of training as an electrician registered with Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA)
  • An unlicensed person can work on wiring supports and enclosures under the effective supervision of a licenced electrician.
  • An electrician that has a licence or authority issued by an Australian regulatory authority (other than Energy Safe Victoria), which is the equivalent of an electrician’s licence, that does not ordinarily reside in Victoria is treated as licensed in Victoria, they must notify Energy Safe Victoria prior to commencing work in Victoria.

Penalties

  • If a person other than a licenced electrician carries out or offers to carry out any electrical installation work, they may be subject to a penalty of up to $ 7,900.
  • A penalty of up to $39,000 may apply to an electrical contractor who employs a person other than a licensed electrical installation worker to carry out electrical installation work.

In the case of a solar farm a ‘non-electrician’, often referred to as a trades assistants, can dig trenches, footings and other civil works, fetch and carry tools and materials, erect solar panel support frames, attach panels (if ELV) and other mechanical tasks. They cannot install or connect combiner boxes, direct buried cables, inverters, earthing systems or attach cables to structures.

They can, under the supervision of an electrician, work on wiring supports and enclosures.

Applicable legislation

The legislative requirements cascade from the Electricity Safety Act 1998 (The Act) to the Electricity Safety (Registration and Licensing) Regulations 2010, Wiring Rules and Government Gazette G17 1999.

The Act and Regulations

Definitions from the Act

electrical connection work means connecting or disconnecting electrical equipment to or from a supply of electricity;

electrical equipment means any appliance, wire, fitting, cable, conduit or apparatus that generates, uses, conveys or controls (or that is intended to generate, use, convey or control) electricity;

electrical installation means electrical equipment that is fixed or to be fixed in, on, under or over any land but does not include a supply network that is owned or operated by a major electricity company;

electrical installation work means installation, alteration, repair or maintenance of an electrical installation;

Definitions from the Electricity Safety (Registration and Licensing) Regulations 2010

effective supervision, in relation to electrical work, means—

  1. being present at the site of the electrical work to the extent necessary to ensure that the work is being correctly performed and carried out in accordance with the Act and any of the regulations relating to the installation and operation of electrical installations; and
  2. being aware of the details of the electrical work being performed and giving detailed instructions and directions with respect to the electrical work;

licensed electrician means an electrical installation worker holding an electrician’s licence under regulation 20

Definition from the Wiring Rules AS/NZS 3000

Voltage

Differences of potential normally existing between conductors or between conductors and earth as follows:

  1. Extra-low voltage: Not exceeding 50V a.c. or 120 V ripple-free d.c.
  2. Low voltage: Exceeding extra-low voltage, but not exceeding 1,000 V a.c. or 1,500 V d.c.
  3. High voltage: Exceeding low voltage.

Wiring enclosure

A pipe, tube, duct, conduit or cable trunking, fixed or supported in position in accordance with the appropriate requirements of this Standard, for the housing or protection of sheathed or unsheathed cables.

Relevant sections of the Act

S30 Contractors

A person must not carry on or offer to carry on or hold out that the person carries on or is willing to carry on any class of electrical contracting that, under the regulations, is a prescribed class of electrical contracting for the purposes of this Division unless the person is registered under this Division as an electrical contractor in respect of electrical contracting of that class and holds the prescribed insurance (if any).

Penalty: In the case of a natural person,

50 penalty units;

In the case of a body corporate,

250 penalty units.

S36 Electrical contractors not to employ certain persons

1. A person (the contractor) must not employ a person (the worker) to carry out, in the course of a business carried on by the contractor, electrical installation work that, under the regulations, is a prescribed class of electrical installation work for the purposes of this Division, unless—

  1. the contractor is a registered electrical contractor under this Division; and
  2. the worker is a licensed electrical installation worker under this Part in respect of electrical installation work of that class.

Penalty: In the case of a natural person,

50 penalty units;

In the case of a body corporate,

250 penalty units.

S38 Electrical workers

A person must not carry out or offer to carry out or hold out that the person carries out or is willing to carry out any class of electrical work that, under the regulations, is a prescribed class of electrical work for the purposes of this Division unless the person is—

  1. licensed under this Division as an electrical installation worker in respect of electrical installation work of that class; or
  2. licensed under this Division as an electrical inspector in respect of electrical  inspection work of that class; or
  3. licensed under this Division as an electrical connection worker in respect of electrical connection work of that class; or
  4. licensed under this Division as an electrical equipment worker in respect of electrical equipment work of that class; or
  5. authorised under an accepted ESMS in respect of electrical work of that class.

Penalty: 50 penalty units.

S39 Apprentices deemed to be licensed

An apprentice within the meaning of the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 in a trade that involves carrying out electrical work is, during the period of the apprenticeship, deemed to be licensed as an electrical worker to carry out electrical work under supervision as prescribed.

Relevant Regulations form the Electricity Safety (Registration and Licensing) Regulations 2010

R5 Prescribed classes of electrical installation work

For the purposes of Division 1 of Part 3 of the Act, a prescribed class of electrical work is the installation, alteration, repair or maintenance of an electrical installation ordinarily operated—

  1. at low voltage or a voltage exceeding low voltage in any area; or
  2. at any voltage in a patient area.

R7 Classes of electrical work

For the purposes of Division 2 of Part 3 of the Act, the following classes of electrical work are prescribed—

  1. electrical installation work carried out on an electrical installation ordinarily operated—
      • (i) at low voltage or a voltage exceeding low voltage in any area; or

    (ii) at any voltage in a patient area;

R21 Supervised worker’s licence

For the purposes of section 40 of the Act, Energy Safe Victoria may issue a license to a person under which the person may carry out all electrical installation work of the class prescribed by regulation 7(a) under the effective supervision of a licensed electrician for a period not exceeding 3 years if Energy Safe Victoria is satisfied that—

  1. the person has—
      • (i) completed a 4 year contract of training as an electrician that included at least 12 months experience in carrying out electrical installation work; and

    (ii) partially completed the Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician; and

    (iii) satisfactorily completed a practical examination conducted by Energy Safe Victoria or a body approved by Energy Safe Victoria in safe work practices; or

  2. the person’s standard of qualifications, proficiency and experience in electrical installation work is at least of an equivalent standard to that required under paragraph (a) or (b).

R30 Mutual recognition—electricians taken to be licensed in Victoria

1. A person—

  1. who is the holder of a licence or authority issued by an Australian regulatory authority (other than Energy Safe Victoria), which is the equivalent of an electrician’s licence; and
  2. who is not ordinarily resident in the State—

is to be treated as licensed under regulation 20, provided that the person notifies Energy Safe Victoria in accordance with this regulation.

Relevant references from Gazette G17 1999

(iv) work on wiring supports and enclosures under the effective supervision of a licensed electrician;

 

This information is provided as guidance and is not intended to be a complete list of tasks or regulatory requirements, for more information contact Energy Safe Victoria on 03 9203 9700.