A group of Queensland mayors has joined the outcry against the state Labor government’s new solar farm rules, warning that they threaten a major source of employment for regional communities.
The rule change, due to come into play on Monday, will require licensed electrical workers only to perform basic installation tasks on solar projects of 100kW and over, including lifting, mounting and fixing PV panels.
As we reported here, shocked and confused business owners – who have had only a month to grapple with the massive implications of the rule change – attended an emergency roundtable meeting in Brisbane on Thursday.
The Clean Energy Council, which hosted the meeting, again called for a deferment of the rule change, which it said had been rushed through without proper consultation or proper justification.
In comments to RenewEconomy after the meeting, the CEC’s director of energy generation, Anna Freeman, said local industry was in “a state of shock and confusion” about what would happen to their existing staff and projects, in a matter of days.
But local governments are also up in arms, it would seem, with the Darling Downs and South West Queensland Council of Mayors calling on the state government to defer the changes and review the regulations – not just in consultation with industry, but with councils of affected communities, too.
“The proposed changes would force the solar farm industry to, in many cases, bring in electricians from outside the area to undertake manual and mechanical tasks associated with erecting solar panels,” said Paul Antonio, who is the Mayor of Toowoomba, and chair of the DDSWQC.
“With limited numbers of licenced electricians in rural communities, these changes have the potential to rob local workers of manual labour jobs, increase costs of construction as well as causing potential delays in project completion,” he told local paper Queensland Country Life on Wednesday.
“Solar projects will form a major platform for future jobs growth in these regional and remote centres and this amendment will take away jobs and could jeopardise the viability of projects.”
As RenewEconomy readers might have noticed, Queensland’s Darling Downs region has been a major hot spot for utility-scale solar development in the state.
Western Downs mayor Paul McVeigh told ABC Online last August that his council alone had approved one wind and 11 solar projects worth $6 billion, and there were three more solar farms in the pipeline.
“We’ve got $1.2 billion of that under construction now, and that’s the exciting thing, this isn’t just about approvals, this is about action to deliver renewable energies to this region,” he said at the time.
“There are plenty of places in Australia which have good solar resources, there are plenty of places which have good transmission lines as well, and there are lots of places which have good support from the local community,” he said.
“Darling Downs has got all three of those, so that’s three big ticks in its favour.”