Zhengrong Shi has described his dismissal this week from the board of the world’s biggest solar panel maker, Suntech Power Holdings, “misconceived and unlawful,” and says he is committed to staying on at the company he founded in 2001. “As the founder, largest shareholder and director, I will do everything to save the company,” he told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. The Australian citizen and UNSW alumnus was ousted as chairman of the Chinese solar giant, which he headed up until last year, just days before a company deadline to make a $541 million bond payment. Shi has since told reporters that the Suntech’s board has no plans for refinancing the bond, due on March 15.
“The problem is they don’t have a solution,” Shi said in a telephone interview after issuing a statement. “They need a viable business plan. They need to talk to all the bondholders and suppliers and government. All the stakeholders want to talk to me. All the bank CEOs want to talk to me. They want to know why Dr. Shi didn’t show up.” As Bloomberg notes, the comments suggest a rift in the company’s upper ranks about how to recover from an accounting scandal and plunging solar-cell prices, which have led to two years of losses for Suntech. Suntech said today it’s confident its appointment of Susan Wang, as a successor to Shi, is valid and legal. The company said Shi would remain chief strategy officer and a director.
In other news…
California-based solar PV provider SolarCity has posted a fourth-quarter loss as a surge in demand for solar leases increased its investment in rooftop power systems. The company, led by billionaire Elon Musk, made a loss of $3.04 million, or $1.10 cents a share (more than double analyst estimates), compared with net income of $14.1 million, or 24 cents a year earlier. Sales rose to $25.3 million from $20.7 million a year earlier, in the company’s first earnings report since its December initial public offering.
The Australian Industry Group has rubbished the Coalition’s Direct Action plans for carbon reductions, claiming it would be an expensive way of reducing emissions. Instead, AIG chief executive Innes Willox suggests both sides of politics support a market-based carbon price, with full international linking, be imposed immediately. This would take the price of carbon emissions down to a price of around $6 a tonne rather than the fixed price of $23 a tonne. Labor’s current plan is for a market based scheme to be replace the fixed price in July, 2015.
South Australian households face a further $15-a-year increase (a total cost of $41 million) to average power bills over the next two years because the state’s electricity distributor wants more money to trim trees. The Adelaide Advertiser reports that SA customers already pay around $15 a year in annual network charges for vegetation clearance, but SA Power Networks is seeking to double the fee from July 1 due to what it describes as an “unexpected increase in vegetation growth rates which followed the unexpected breaking of the `Millennium drought’ in mid-2010.”
Independent climate think-tank Beyond Zero Emissions has called on NSW residents to “call the bluff” of the coal-seam gas industry’s warnings that restrictions on CSG mining will cause gas prices to rise, arguing their concern about the local impact is duplicitous. “The gas industry has no real commitment to domestic gas supply, and certainly not to cheap supply,” said BZE spokesperson Ben Courtice. “The gas companies are not desperate to frack NSW for more CSG because they care about the NSW gas supply. They need it for their LNG export trains and contracts with Asia.”