The first criminal prosecution commenced on behalf of the Clean Energy Regulator in relation to the provision of false information to create Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs) under the Government’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) has resulted in convictions. A Sydney solar panel installer was convicted of 24 counts under section 137.2(1) of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995(producing false and misleading information) and one count under section 192G of the Crimes Act NSW (publishing false/misleading statements with the intention of obtaining a financial benefit). In considering sentencing the Deputy Chief Magistrate said a sentence of imprisonment was appropriate in this case. Sentencing will be finalised in late October 2012 when the matter is next in court.
A compliance investigation by the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator (now the Clean Energy Regulator) had shown that 4307 certificates to the value of over $170,000 were improperly created based on false information provided by the company about 24 non-existent PV system installations in the Sydney area.
The Clean Energy Regulator understandably demands a high level of compliance with the scheme requirements. The Clean Energy Regulator works with participants to ensure they understand their obligations and it helps them to comply but it will not tolerate actions such as the provision of false information to obtain a financial benefit which could undermine public confidence in the scheme and in the certificate market.
A range of enforcement actions are available to the Clean Energy Regulator under the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 (the Act) for the improper creation of certificates. These include criminal and civil prosecutions, enforceable undertakings and injunctions. The provisions apply in respect of contraventions of the Act by individuals, companies, executive officers of companies and other persons involved in contraventions of the Act.
Where appropriate, as in this case, the Clean Energy Regulator works with the Australian Federal Police to execute warrants and with the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecution in regards to the criminal proceedings.