Workers at engineering firm Keppel Prince have told a Senate committee that they fear the Federal Government’s delay in setting a realistic Renewable Energy Target risks finishing off the nation’s main wind tower manufacturer.
AMWU member David Mills gave evidence that the remaining workers at Keppel Prince were living day to day with the uncertainty haunting the Victorian town of Portland, after the collapse of Australia’s wind tower industry late in 2014 saw 90 jobs there lost.
“We’re down to about 30 workers now who had worked on the towers, there were 120 when that production was at their peak,” Mr Mills said after addressing the Portland hearing of the Senate select committee on wind towers.
“There’s a huge knock-on effect in town, stress on families, shops closing nearly every week, the industrial laundry have put off people and even the takeaway lunch shop has reduced business.
AMWU Assistant Victorian Secretary Craig Kelly told the seven Senators that uncertainty over the Renewable Energy Target (RET) had stopped business investment in seven wind tower projects in Victoria.
Wind farm projects worth potentially $4.8 billion to the Victorian economy remain on hold pending an outcome to the RET impasse.
“Beyond Portland, the impact flows back through to steel-making in Port Kembla in NSW and steel cutting and distribution by Bluescope at Westall in Victoria,” Mr Kelly said.
The Abbott Government has wasted months in setting a new Renewable Energy Target , after its decision to reduce it from 41,000 gigawatts per hour (gph) to favour coal-fired power saw a major flight of renewables investment out of Australia late last year.
This week the Government is trying to finalise a 32,000 gph with crossbench Senators to provide the industry certainty to 2020, after rejecting Labor’s compromise of a 35,000gph.
Mr Kelly said Keppel Prince is competing for three smaller wind farms in Bendigo, Ararat and Horndale in South Australia but each is not large enough to sustain production and create jobs.
Mr Mills, a leading hand at Keppel Prince, and AMWU delegate Craig Mannix said workers worried their parent firm in Singapore was fast running out of patience.
“We need certainty on the RET from this Government, we’ve got at least $15 million of plant and heavy engineering equipment sitting here and we’re worried it’s only a matter of time before the company decides that’s not viable,” Mr Mills said.