Friday, 17 June 2011

It's lights out for solar firm

7 June 2011, Page: 7

ONE of AUSTRALIA'S largest rooftop solar panel retailers Clear Solar has gone into receivership, costing up to 40 jobs and prompting warnings from the industry of more closures in coming months. But household customers have been spared, with Clear Solar being bought out by one of its creditors electrical wholesaler Middy's which has guaranteed 500 outstanding contracts to install solar panels.

Clear Solar which boasts on its website to have done 10,000 solar installations across the country called in administrators Pitcher Partners yesterday morning. Secured Clear Solar creditors include Middy's and the ANZ, among others. The company's administrators were unable to say last night what debts were owed. Middy's is backing a new company, Akora Energy, to carry out the existing 500 contracts with customers and suppliers, which equates to about two months' work.

Akora Energy director Michael Carew said the new company had taken on 50 Clear Solar staff, and was committed to retaining them beyond existing contracts with an eye to expanding the business. But he said up to 40 staff had been told they would be let go. Clean energy groups were yesterday pointing to the fall of Clear Solar as a warning for governments about the state of the solar industry following sharp cuts to state and federal subsidies for rooftop solar.

Clean Energy Council chief executive Matt Warren said "sudden changes to government schemes can quickly undo any gains towards developing a competitive solar industry". But Mr Warren added: "The fact that there is a buyer for the company is a good reflection of long term confidence in solar as part of Australia's energy future".

Australian Solar Energy Society chief executive John Grimes said it was an absolute certainty further firms would collapse in the current environment, adding that 8000 jobs were at stake. The federal government said yesterday it would keep its commitment of a $75 million grant to the troubled large scale solar power project proposed for Victorian Murray town Mildura, after a new owner was found for the project last year.