Australia’s largest integrated wind tower manufacturer – and sometime PV and wave energy dabbler – RPG Australia has gone into voluntary administration, a move that has taken many by surprise and will see more than 150 workers made redundant, effective immediately.
AAP reports that the board of the Queensland-based RPG Group – which is one of Australia’s largest heavy engineering companies, with a total of 310 staff in four manufacturing facilities which make – appointed administrators on Friday and decided to immediately close its plants at Dalby and Richlands in Queensland and Kilburn in South Australia, following a weekend review. The Australian reports that one worker in Melbourne was also made redundant, while operations at Wacol in Brisbane remain under review. The business – whose website appears to be down today – was advertised for “urgent sale” on Tuesday.
According to RECharge News, the closed sites include two listed as hosting RPG’s renewables-focused operations. The company supplied wind turbine towers for the Snowtown wind farm in South Australia, and names Suzlon, Vestas and Enercon among the turbine-makers to which it has supplied towers for deployment at Australian wind farms. RPG also supplies steel structures for the oil and gas, mining and general engineering sectors.
The closure of RPG’s Dalby plant in Queensland’s Darling Downs, which employed 76 people, has reportedly shocked the local Mayor, Ray Brown, who told AAP that the company showed no signs of difficulty leading up to the collapse. “With the growth in the energy industry, we’ve got many, many projects moving at the moment – there are billions of dollars moving through the town,” he said. “I know they have been a major part of the wind turbine manufacturing industry down south, but clearly they’ve got some financial issues.”
Ironically, the administrator appointed to oversee said issues is Ferrier Hodgson, whose co-founder, Tony Hodgson, is on the record as an ardent anti-wind campaigner. A board member of anti-wind group Waubra Foundation, Hodgson has most notably been the driving force behind a campaign to stop the construction of a proposed wind farm that would overlook his “rural getaway” in Collector, on the NSW southern tablelands.
“My position in life is I thought Genghis Khan was a bit of a piker so I am out there,” Hodgson told The Australian back in January, in an interview about his fierce battle against the wind farm’s developer Transfield Services, the state government and a neighbour, who agreed to host some of the proposed wind towers on his property in exchange for lease payments.
The South Australian Liberal opposition has seized the moment to accuse the Rann Labor government of raising false hopes about the renewable energy industry and any associated economic benefits.
“Just last year federal Climate Change Minister Greg Combet and then SA premier Mike Rann dropped in on the Adelaide engineering company, promising wind farms would produce a spate of local manufacturing jobs,” opposition planning spokesman David Ridgway said yesterday. “RPG once made crane booms and mining equipment, but bolstered by subsidies, handouts and incentives the company got heavily involved in wind farm towers.”
Ridgway also said it “wasn’t about wind power,” and pointed out that South Australia has more than 50 per cent of Australia’s wind power and more than that fully approved and ready to be built, as well as the most relaxed laws when it comes to wind farm approvals.
Meanwhile, the administrators say they hope to sell the remaining businesses and keep staff on. The first meeting of creditors will be held on October 17.