As Australia prepares to launch into what is billed as a clean energy future, its largest wind turbine manufacturer has sacked 24 staff because of a lack of business.
Keppel Prince cut welding, painting and processing jobs at its Portland plant yesterday after finishing work on the final wind farm on its books, a 13-tower project near Hamilton.
Including voluntary redundancies, it has shed about 50 of its 450 workers in the past two months.
Keppel Prince general manager Steve Garner said wind farm construction had stalled across Australia, largely due to a design flaw in federal legislation setting a target of about 20 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
The market for renewable energy certificates created through clean projects has been flooded with credits from rooftop solar panels.
It has suppressed the certificate price, stymieing the development of the cheapest large-scale clean energy – wind farms.
Parliament tackled the problem in 2010 by dividing the market into large and small-scale renewable energy schemes, but the certificate price is yet to fully recover.
”The wind industry says they are getting projects together, but they are being planned to go in the back end of 2012 and into 2013 and we can’t convince them to do otherwise,” Mr Garner said.
”Last time this happened I carried people all the way through and it cost me millions, but in the current economic climate I can’t afford to do that.”
He said he hoped to be able to eventually rehire workers but warned that the delay in construction and state government rules giving households right-of-veto over turbines planned within two kilometres of their homes could stop the country meeting the 20 per cent target.
”If you do your numbers you have to have something like 500 towers built each year and at the moment we’re doing very little,” he said.
Clean Energy Council policy manager Russell Marsh said wind farm plans were also being affected by uncertainty surrounding a review of the renewable energy legislation later this year. ”In our view it needs to be done as quickly as possible,” he said.
Unlike the carbon pricing scheme that will start on July 1, the renewable energy target has bipartisan support.
A spokesman for the Climate Change Minister, Greg Combet, said the government had asked the Climate Change Authority to review the legislation and recommend any changes by the end of the year.