Let's face the facts, here. Nabcep is nothing more than a private enterprise, centered around collecting money from people. I would believe otherwise, if they were differently structured. But all indications point to lead towards Nabcep standing not for education, not for workforce preparedness nor usefulness to the industry as a whole. I think it's just a way for a few people to make a bunch of money.
If the Department of Energy (Energy.Gov) were to step in, the test would work drastically differently from NABCEP's. First of all, it would only contain questions relevant to the average workers' experience. Many of the key questions in the Nabcep exam are based on the hardest questions ever faced by anyone in the industry. And their answers are pretty much the opinions of the people who were asked the questions by real life experience in the first place. Nobody truly understands the way that electricity works. We're still learning about it everyday, and yet the Nabcep exam claims, in its questions, to know the best solutions to the most unanswerable problems that PV could ever deliver.
I say leave those questions to the few and far between us who might be faced with them on occasion. The average solar workers' experience contains boundless amounts of information to be memorized, none of it as specialized as Nabcep. Some of which is asked on their test, often where the phrases are oddly structured and the true nature of the question is difficult to determine.
To me, that's by design. I know that tests aren't supposed to be easy, but the Nabcep test is designed to fail, solely for the reason that they can charge you to take it over again. In fact, you have a much better chance of passing it if you invest in one of their official preparation classes, where the instructor is given precursory language to explain the meaning behind the next batch of tests to the students.
To me, that's not capitalism, and I believe that's where we draw the line. The point at which capitalism ends is not socialism. It's exploitation. And this is an exploitative technique, as many techniques currently exist within the industry, to keep knowledge of the field to a minimum. There's no shortage of interest in the study of solar electricity, but society almost intentionally keeps itself apart from the information necessary for we, as a nation, to move forward with alternative energy.
I believe that the first, and probably the best, solution is this. The US Government needs to step up and create a federal certification (not a license but a certification) to prove to others that "this individual is capable of estimating the production of a PV array annually."
And I'm not talking about just one time showing what the scores are. I'm saying that individuals could take this test multiple times, getting higher scores in different areas each and every time they take it. I'm also suggesting that the DOE publish the results of the test, for those who wish their test scores to be seen. This would give people an indication of the level of understanding an individual has, in that particular field. Much of this, though, is hypothetical.
Because in reality, the rules of on the job preparedness for PV solar are still, despite the booming success of the late 2000's for solar, extremely primative. Nabcep certainly isn't doing the trick, and I would be skeptical for any institution, even my own, for providing students with credentials that evoke confidence in people who are looking for others to hire in order to install photovoltaic grid-tied backfeeding systems.