Sun sets on 37 jobs

THE wild swings in government energy policies have caused one local company to shed more than a third of its workforce.

Solar and Bamboo Direct, which employed 93 people in Coffs Harbour last year, has shed 37 jobs in recent weeks.

Company principal and chief executive Pieter McHeyzer said while some former staff members had “bailed out” to go to other jobs, there were still 25 or 30 people in Coffs Harbour who had lost the jobs they had last (financial) year, thanks to flawed government polices.

“We put all these people on to cope with the huge bubble (of people wanting to install solar systems).”

“We installed well over 1000 kilowatts in three months during April, May and June. The deadline was supposed to be June 30, then right before the deadline they said there would be an extra six months.

“Back in October we knew it was going to be a wild ride to the finish.

“When (former NSW Labor premier) Kristina Keneally announced they were scrapping the feed-in tariff for solar electricity in October 2010, she gave us and the community 13 hours notice to wind up the scheme

“In those 13 hours customers ordered 179 systems.

“On Christmas Eve they changed the rules twice and we came back in January to more changes.”

Mr McHeyzer said he had diversified Solar and Bamboo Direct, introducing new products such as energy-efficient light emitting diode (LED) lighting, hotwater systems, new bamboo products and plastic decking , but he knew of other companies that had concentrated purely on solar energy, which had shut their doors.

“We have gone from huge numbers of (solar) orders down to one-tenth of that value and both (state and federal) governments are still changing the rules,” Mr McHeyzer said.

“A month ago I got an email from the Office of Renewable Energy showing 11 new amendments to the requirements to have a system registered. There are changes every month.

“The so-called solar-friendly Coalition State Government is sitting on its hands as far as coming up with any sort of feed-in tariff.

“The (O'Farrell) government committed to a feed-in tariff at the first summit (on solar energy) early in June and at the second summit on July 1 the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal review was to give guidance before November. Now we have just been told it will not be until April 2012.”

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