Certification is not mandatory

Last month, I learned that another major incentive program for solar electric installations had included language that required NABCEP certification to be able to participate in the program. While it is always flattering to have the NABCEP installer certification program receive a strong and visible vote of confidence from program planners, requiring NABCEP certification also poses some real and significant issues.  To articulate but a few questions, which arise when NABCEP certification is made mandatory, I pose the following: are there sufficient NABCEP certified installers in the state to handle the volume of work? Are there other qualified individuals who should be allowed to participate in the program?

It is admirable that program planners charged with dispersing public funds seek to apply the consumer protection offered by an industry recognized professional standard. However, it is not necessary to mandate a requirement for certification – a voluntary program that promoted the benefits of choosing certified installers and perhaps even paid a higher incentive for system installed by certificants would achieve the desired ends without constraining the growth of the installer base.

It is unfortunate when incentive program language highlights NABCEP certification, but leaves out wording which states the obvious–that all program participants will have to comply with all applicable requirements and standards pertaining to individual and business licensure, trade qualification and permitting. NABCEP is not meant to be a “pass” around any other existing standards and should never be used in a PV or solar thermal incentive program as a “short cut” to trades of licensure qualification.

When NABCEP certification is made mandatory, it generates some confusion about the extent and purpose of the certification. I have been fortunate to be involved with NABCEP from its inception and can speak with confidence in saying that the NABCEP Board has never considered its certification programs a substitute or alternative to licensure and trade qualifications. We do, however, recognize that standards and requirements vary greatly from state to state and even within states. NABCEP serves a unique purpose in that it offers a national standard of competency measurement that can be overlaid on any jurisdictional model as a means of identifying individuals with specialized knowledge in a solar discipline.

One of the great things about NABCEP certifications is the fact that the task analysis, which drives each exam, covers skills and knowledge that span a multitude of traditional trades. A solar installer is routinely called upon to perform work that goes beyond general electrical or plumbing trades, like roofing, carpentry, metal work.  These and other tasks are an everyday part of many installer’s jobs.

To reiterate: NABCEP certification is a means of identifying individuals who have met experience and education requirements necessary to sit for and pass a rigorous examination which is professionally designed to asses specific solar thermal or solar electric knowledge of the candidate. It does not replace or supplant any other trade or professional qualification, nor does it intend to supersede any such qualification in any jurisdiction where other professional qualifications are required.

In closing, I want to turn to an entirely different matter.  Recently, the NABCEP Sponsorship Program was recently rolled out in an email to most readers. NABCEP really does need the financial support of those who see the certifications and programs we offer as valuable and important to our growing industry. I urge all business owners who employ NABCEP certified installers to become sponsors of NABCEP. Please visit our website for more information on how you or your business can participate in and benefit from the various levels of NABCEP sponsorship opportunities.