The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) became the North American licensee for the Institute for Sustainable Power Quality (ISPQ), which serves as one venue for RE education quality control. ISPQ develops guidelines and standards for comparing the “content, quality, and resources” of RE training programs. Their International Standard 01022 establishes standards and metrics to accredit and certify training programs and instructors. As of January 2010, 25 programs are accredited, and there are 10 certified master trainers and 17 certified instructors.
The IREC awards formal recognition for five ISPQ designations: Accreditation for Training Programs, Accreditation for Continuing Education Providers, Certification for Independent Master Trainers, Certification for Affiliated Master Trainers, and Certification for Instructors. Each candidate must undergo a comprehensive audit, which may take up to one year to complete, and supplemental documentation or an on-site visit is required. After initially achieving ISPQ status, certificate holders are reviewed annually during the five-year award cycle and must pay annual fees.
Another quality-control organization is the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). This volunteer board is comprised of RE stakeholder representatives who have developed and implemented nationally recognized credential and certification programs, including voluntary certifications for professional PV and solar thermal installers, and will soon include wind installers. These certifications are in accordance with standards set forth by the National Organization for Competency Assurance and the International Organization for Standardization, as well as in compliance with the National Electrical Code. NABCEP’s credential is widely recognized as a good measure of professionalism and is required by some jurisdictions to work as an installer. There are more than 1,000 NABCEP-certified PV and solar thermal installers. More than 3,000 individuals have passed the NABCEP entry-level PV exam (see “Certificate vs. Certification” sidebar on page 39).
When you’re shopping for installer training programs, first consider those that have both ISPQ accreditation with ISPQ-certified trainers, and/or NABCEP-certified installers. These instructors should be well-versed in industry safety and quality practices, and pursuing the continuing education necessary to maintain certification.