Certification vs. Licensing
Certification and licensing have different advantages and disadvantages. From a financial point of view, voluntary national certification is preferable to mandatory state licensing because it results in a lower cost of installation and provides greater consumer choice than mandatory licensing. In states that do not require solar contractor licensing, certification can provide a baseline level of quality. State licensing may be restrictive, as state licenses do not typically transfer, so geographic mobility is limited. However, state licensing can protect consumers from potential safety hazards and will help ensure that systems are installed properly. While both licensing and certification have drawbacks, requiring solar contractors to be licensed or certified is preferable to no quality control of system installation and will result in baseline standards being met, which will in turn lead to higher consumer satisfaction.
The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) is a nationally-recognized, independent, voluntary certification program for photovoltaic (PV) and solar-heating system installers, that can be earned to demonstrate specific skills or knowledge. To become NABCEP-certified, installers must have a certain amount of work experience (see NABCEP Handbook for specific qualifications) and must document all training and installations. Installers must also pass a rigorous exam, sign a code of ethics, and take continuing education courses for re-certification every three years. SEI recognizes NABCEP as the leading certifying authority in the solar industry.
Proper training and workforce development are critical to a well-trained clean energy workforce. SEI individual courses and Solar Professionals Certificate Program can be used to meet the education requirements for NABCEP certification. A Certificate Program is not a Certification, but rather a course of study, similar to a diploma available to people wishing to enter the solar industry.
As you enter into the renewable energy career field it is critical that you understand the difference between your local laws regarding licensing and professional certification, as licensing is distinct from certification. States and localities establish licensing requirements for contractors and electricians in order to protect consumers from unsafe practices and protect the reputation of the industry, as improper installation may create safety risks or result in poor equipment performance. While licensing is mandatory for certain practices, certification is usually a voluntary standard that installers attain to differentiate themselves from competition and to instill confidence in consumers. Certification may entail completing coursework, installation experience for a certain period of time, and/or taking an exam, but it is typically not required by the local jurisdiction to legally install equipment.