Friday 5/11/2010 Page: 8
Thousands of jobs will dry up around Christmas after the NSW Government slashed the solar rebate scheme by two-thirds. Last week, the State Government slashed the payment people with solar panels can get for feeding energy back into the grid from 60¢ to 20¢/kW. It had an immediate impact, with dozens of jobs already lost and solar power films forced to put business decisions on hold, a meeting of furious solar industry and union figures heard yesterday.
But the real impact will be felt around Christmas, when what was left of the current work in the pipeline dried up, the meeting at Sydney's Town Hall heard. John Grimes, chief executive of the Australian Solar Energy Association, predicted 2000 jobs would be lost. "We know of over 10 people who lost their jobs overnight because of this policy change", Mr Grimes told reporters. "[Was 60¢] sustainable? No, it was too high.
But they [the Government] didn't ask us. And now with this knee-jerk reaction they've slashed it to 20¢, which will be lowest feed-in tariff in Australia. "We forecast around 2000 jobs will be lost because of this poor policy decision". He said there was a huge rush of work as people met the deadline for the change last week. "And then the phones stopped ringing".
solar panel installer Ged McCarthy, chairman of the you, said sales staff were the first to go. "We had an immediate stop in phone calls. Some of the members, within 24 hours, started laying off staff. "Mainly the sales staff and the office staff, that's the immediate effect to the industry. "I've had some members basically say, Christmas time they've got work until, but basically giving some of their staff a Christmas present, which is a lay-off notice".
Tim Ayers, secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, called on the Commonwealth to introduce a standard national feed-in tariff. Those at the meeting proposed 45¢/kW. NSW Greens MP John Kaye said his party would introduce legislation to Parliament next week to take the rate back up to 30¢. He said 40¢ would be better, but 30¢ would allow the industry to keep going over the shorter time.
Asked if she would take responsibility for the job losses, Premier Kristina Keneally said, "What I take responsibility for is this Government's decision to cut the tariff, because cutting the tariff has meant that we will avoid an additional $2.5 billion in costs being passed on to households in NSW over the next six to seven years. "That would have occurred if we had allowed the solar scheme to continue operating at the 60¢ tariff", she said.
Ms Keneally said there was work for the industry for "months to come" and the industry would continue to be viable despite the cuts. Opposition climate change spokeswoman Catherine Cusack said cutting the rate had been a debacle for the industry. "One of the few benefits of this fiasco is that we did create a renewable energy industry. "And if the Government does not have a rescue plan for the industry, even this benefit will be lost", Ms Cusack said. The Opposition plans to hold a workshop with industry figures next week to discuss a "crisis plan".
Feed-In Tariff Rates Across Australia
- ACT - 40.04¢/kW (gross)
- Northern Territory (Alice Solar City plan) - 51.28¢ (gross), capped at $5 a day
- NSW - 20¢ (gross)
- Queensland - 44¢ (net)
- South Australia - 44¢ (net)
- Victoria - 60¢ (net)
- Western Australia - 40¢ (net)
Tariffs can be paid on either a gross or net basis. Gross means payment for all power generated by a consumer, including what they use themselves. Net means payment for excess power after personal consumption.