Clean energy manufacturers warn of closures if RET slashed

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Australia’s few clean energy manufacturers – including one transitioning from car industry – have warned of job losses and closures if RET is changed.

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Australia’s leading renewable energy manufacturers have pleaded with the Abbott Government to leave the Renewable Energy Target alone, saying that changes will be detrimental to the industry and could mean the end of their businesses.

Tindo Solar, Keppel Prince Engineering and IXL Group, which is trying to find new industries after the collapse of the car manufacturing business, have all placed submissions for the Renewable Energy Target review, warning of major job losses and factory closures if the RET is changed.

tindo soalrAdelaide-based Tindo Solar, Australia’s only manufacturer of PV solar panels, said the bi-partisan RET policy provided the confidence to establish a manufacturing plant in 2011.

The manufacturing plant’s viability, as well as solar panel production, are now at risk with the latest RET review.

“An abolishment of the SRES (small scale target) has serious implications for Tindo Solar and will most likely result in the cessation of manufacturing solar panels in Australia with the associated loss of jobs,” it writes.

Tindo Solar said the RET had helped create up to 24,000 jobs across the renewable energy industry in Australia, but weakening the target would cause jobs to be lost just as most businesses are on an expansion path. And it would raise safety issues.

Tindo said the rebate for a 1.5kW system had effectively fallen from around $8,250 in 2000, under the then Photovoltaic Rebate Program (PVRP) to just $1,050 under the SRES scheme. It says this should be expanded to 500kW systems, up from 100kW, to encourage the commercial solar market.

IXL Group, a family-owned Geelong-based domestic appliance and automotive parts firm, has recently established a new business, IXL Solar, based in Adelaide.

The company is currently in the middle of manufacturing approximately 100,000 mounting frames for the 155MW Solar Flagships project based in Nyngan and Broken Hill (NSW).

It said 40 full-time positions in jeopardy due to the RET review. Not only does IXL have manufacturing in Adelaide but parts are also supplied from their plant in Geelong, putting two manufacturing operations at risk at a time where the company attempts to distance itself from the automotive industry towards 2017.

IXL said changes to the RET could see the emerging solar industry “imploding in a manner that mirrors recent events in the car industry.”

It said the irony is that unlike the car industry, the renewables industry would not need subsidies to remain in place long term. It simply needs to be able to establish itself, and the next five years would be critical.

Keppel Prince Engineering, a Victorian based engineering firm originally structured around the local Aluminium smelter, has more recently become a wind tower manufacturer in 2001 following the Howard Government’s two per cent Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET).

Since then, Keppel Prince  said it has made investments upwards of $12 million in establishing and expanding a production facility to fabricate, paint and fit-out wind towers for projects equating to almost 650 towers for Australian wind farm projects.

From 2008, KPE directly employed approximately 200 people, which was then reduced to 110 by March, 2014, because of policy uncertainty. It said these jobs were now at risk, and the business had been carrying losses in anticipation that the bipartisan target would be retained.

“We urge the review panel to resist any temptation to have their deliberations coloured by uninformed views expressed by minorities who suggest that the installation of large scale renewables is opposed by the majority of Australians.

It said most of Australia’s trading partners were lifting their renewable energy targets, and Australia’s current 41,000GWh target was not out of place.

 

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