July 11, 2008

Renewable energy body in turmoil

The peak body for renewable power, the Clean Energy Council, was issued with a writ yesterday seeking that it be ordered to appoint an independent accountant or be wound up.

The affidavit, lodged in the Federal Court on behalf of the council’s deputy chairman Peter Szental, requests that the CEC be ordered to allow a report to be prepared on whether it is solvent.

The report should also show the adequacy of the defendant’s financial records, according to the writ filed by legal firm Arnold Bloch Leibler.

The application is scheduled to be heard on August 5.

Mr Szental would not comment on the legal action, saying he has been directed not to speak publicly on CEC matters.

CEC chairman Richard McIndoe, who heads TRUenergy, which operates the Yallourn coal-fired power station, told BusinessDaily he would not comment on whether Mr Szental had been gagged.

The CEC has been troubled since it was formed last year when the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) and the Australian Wind Association joined forces.

The merged advocacy group had more than 300 members largely from the sustainable energy industry.

But many of its sponsoring members are organisations that derive most of their earnings from fossil fuels, such as TRUenergy, AGL and Origin Energy.

Earlier this year, the CEC board stunned the sustainable energy sector when it accepted membership from Gunns, the Tasmanian pulp mill operator.

The CEC’s inaugural chairman, former AGL chief executive Paul Anthony, lasted less than a month in the job after he was dumped by the gas company over a shock earnings downgrade.

His CEC role was taken over by another executive from the fossil fuel sector, TRUenergy’s Mr McIndoe.

Over the next few months, 14 of the 16 staff that had moved over from the BCSE quit over concerns that the CEC was not showing enough leadership on renewable energy and energy efficiency lobbying.

This year CEC chief Dominique LaFontaine, a former timber industry lobbyist, left saying she wanted to spend more time with her family.

Last month one CEC director, Rodger Meads, the Australian chief executive of German solar power giant Conergy, led a delegation to Federal Parliament of renewable companies that were disgruntled with the lack of representation they were getting from the CEC.

At the time, Mr Meads said he felt “a great sense of dismay and betrayal” over the CEC’s lack of lobbying clout in Canberra.

He added that the exodus of CEC staff had undermined the group’s technical expertise and thus its effectiveness.

“We pay $25,000 a year in membership fees and frankly, we are not seeing any support from the CEC on issues such as solar rebates and feed-in tariffs,” Mr Meads said.

Olga Galacho

Herald Sun

12 July 2008

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2008/07/11/renewable-energy-body-in-turmoil/