Australia’s biggest manufacturer of wind towers, the Portland, Victoria-based Keppel Prince – has mothballed most of its operations and laid off 100 staff following the decision by the Abbott government to try to cut the renewable energy target by more than half.
Keppell Prince issued a press release on Thursday morning saying that continued uncertainty over the future of the RET meant losses at its manufacturing operations would continue. The fabrication lines would be mothballed and 100 full time employees would be cut.
The company is the first direct casualty of the Abbott government’s affirmation on Wednesday that it was determined to slash the RET by more than half, despite modelling commissioned its own panel finding that such a move would lead to higher prices for consumers.
The renewable energy industry has warned that continued uncertainty over the RET, and any moves to dilute it, would be devastating for the industry in Australia, both in terms of investment and jobs. About $15 billion of investment is at risk, and thousands of jobs.
Keppel Prince’s statement suggests that the decision had been in the pipeline for some weeks. Confirmation on Wednesday from Industry minister Ian Macfarlane that the Abbott government would embrace one of the key options of the controversial Warburton Review – to convert the target from a fixed goal of 41,000GWh to a floating “real” 20 per cent target – meant the wind industry would continue to stagnate.
The wind industry estimates that another 2,000 or more wind turbines could be built in Australia – the blades and nacelles are usually imported, but many towers built locally – but diluting the target to a mooted “compromise” deal of around 31,000GWh would likely see all investment delayed for years, and just a fraction of the wind turbines built.
This has been the unofficial policy of the Coalition, which has large rumps of members – from the PM and the Treasurer down to rural and city MPs, who dislike wind energy, and have been determined to see the industry brought to a halt in Australia.