Sunday, 3 April 2011

Solar firm sees both sides of tax

Courier Mail
25 March 2011, Page: 44

FOR Sunshine Coast solar systems company Auzion, a carbon price would be welcome but also something of a worry. Auzion managing director Mark Leckenby said he hoped the carbon price policy would be designed so that domestic production of inputs for the solar industry, chiefly aluminium, wasn't disrupted.

His almost three year old company, which has 50 staff plus 30 full time sales consultants, previously focused on supplying solar panels but has just expanded its range to include an aluminium solar panel rooftop mounting system that Auzion designed and is manufacturing in Brisbane.

"A lot of the current product in Australia is imported. Ours is locally designed and made", Mr Leckenby said. "A carbon price will definitely be a boost for us because it further helps the economics of renewable energy. "But every one tonne of aluminium roughly equals a tonne of CO₂. It's important that local aluminium supply isn't impacted so its a matter of managing that".

A federal multi party committee is working out details of a carbon price, to be launched in July next year. Steel and aluminium companies want free permits to emit CO₂ so that offshore rivals without similar carbon costs aren't advantaged. The Gillard Government wants the bulk of revenue raised to go to households. Its climate change adviser, Ross Garnaut, says trade exposed polluters included in the scheme could receive assistance for three years to cover any sales price disadvantage.

And from 2015, any assistance would be determined by an independent regulator. Mr Leckenby said he expected solar panel demand to stay strong despite a federal rebate dropping, initially by 20%, from this July. Although the rebate is falling, the Greens are looking at how the carbon price scheme can reward those who make household energy savings.

"We've been installing about 60 systems a week and I think demand is going to be strong right through that 20% rebate drop", Mr Leckenby said. Auzion is also eyeing a role in a plan by Energy Parks Australia to develop a 10 MW solar farm on 20ha of land on the Sunshine Coast. Currently Australia's largest solar facility is a 4 MW solar thermal plant built by NSW Government owned utility Macquarie Generation in the Hunter Valley.