Abbott’s RET take costs 100 jobs in Portland, just for starters

Wind TurbineThe closing down of Keppel Prince’s (Portland, Vic) huge wind tower engineering operations and the laying off of 100 jobs is a cause for real concern to all who believe in an economy built on a renewable energy future. The company is the first direct casualty of the Abbott government’s affirmation on Wednesday that it was determined to slash the Renewable Energy Target by more than half, despite modelling commissioned by its own panel finding that such a move would lead to higher prices for consumers. (Giles Parkinson, ReNew Economy).

The procrastination on a decision about the RET, and sending frequent signals about renewable energy by the Abbott Government for nigh on 2 years has stalled the strong investment in solar and wind power installations built up in Victoria (in particular) over a good many years. Its sends really negative signals about the type of investment Tony Abbott wants- investments in high carbon industries that are the backbone of the problems of climate change and pollution that we have inherited. These are not the investments that will serve our future. It is stupid policy.

It is clear the “green credentials” marketed by AGL, Origin and the like in past years were fake. They were not serious and have lobbied hard for subsidies and government intervention to prop up their traditional profit-making from coal. Big coal is in a hurry, too, as the current coal markets of China and India may not be sustained. The tragedy in all this is that the subsidies for coal take from the support for renewable energy, a $15billion shift that flies in the face of science and global efforts to reduce climate change impacts on our future.

For mainstream Australians, we can take heart from the likes of BHP and the finance world calling for prices on carbon, for investment in renewables and for diverse power generation sources like community-owned power.

We can take no heart from a Government winding back the clock and calling for the Renewable Energy Target to be slashed by a half, because the take up on renewable energy is so successful that big coal-powered profits have taken a real hit. Now local jobs take a hit in the RET contest.

Abbott cannot turn around the global ship on a shift from renewable energy, even if his government seeks to take Australia through turbulent waters along with Canada. Renewables will continue to grow because they make sense. They make profits (not for AGL, Origin) and they provide the challenge to close down coal and look at a smarter base-load power generation based on a cocktail of renewables and limited gas.

Whilst Tony Abbott sees a future in coal business, he threatens more sustainable business, and more employment, in renewables. And Keppel Prince is 100 jobs worse off in Victoria. This is due to stupid and unnecessary policy dogma in Canberra, and the State Government languishes in support of it.

Peter Lockyer
BEAM Mitchell Environment Group president

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