A major world supplier of wind farm technology has been forced to turn its back on Australia because, it says, the green energy market is unviable.
Vestas Australia Wind Technology will close its Portland turbine blade factory at the end of the year because it is not profitable.
One hundred and thirty jobs will be lost, with the closure casting major doubt over the viability of Australia’s renewable energy industry.
Vestas says it could no longer justify keeping the plant open because the investment was not worthwhile in the Australian market.
“It’s definitely a fact that the current environment for the wind industry is not big enough to encourage these kinds of investments,” Vestas Asia-Pacific senior vice-president Jorn Hammer told AAP.
“We have the view that if the government steps up to the plate and puts the necessary security for a long-term market in place we’ll have another look at the market, but I guess we’ll be a little more careful next time.
“(Not) just believing in what they’ve been telling us, we need to see some hard evidence to justify investment.”
The federal government has set a two per cent renewable energy target, labelled “pathetic” by Greenpeace which says it is not enough to encourage a green power industry.
Labor and the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) have also blamed the government for the Vestas closure, accusing Canberra of stifling the industry.
The Danish-based company last year closed a similar $15 million factory in Tasmania, laying off 65 staff.
The Wynyard plant, near Burnie, 345km north-west of Hobart, operated for three years, manufacturing blade hubs and nacelle components for its wind turbines.
Mr Hammer said the plant closed for the same reason the Portland factory was shutting down.
The Portland operation opened two years ago and produces export turbine blades.
Vestas had hoped to invest in new technology to develop blades for the Australian market but could not justify the outlay, Mr Hammer said.
The company will continue to employ about 200 people around Australia in technical and support roles but its manufacturing operations here will cease.
Mr Hammer said the company would fulfil its employee obligations and was working with the union to help workers find new jobs.
“It’s very sad, it was not an easy decision for us, we feel very much for our employees in Portland,” he said.
22 August 2007
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