Rainbow Power director Paul O’Reilly says the dumping of the solar bonus scheme has ‘frozen the industry’.
Rainbow Power director Paul O’Reilly says the dumping of the solar bonus scheme has ‘frozen the industry’. Doug Eaton

Small businesses feeling the heat

SMALL businesses have taken the brunt of the O'Farrell government's decision to drop the NSW Solar Bonus Scheme and most of them are unlikely to recover, a local solar operator says.

Rainbow Power Company spokesman Paul O'Reilly said the dumping of the scheme had frozen the industry and nothing would change until IPART's review of solar tariffs was released in April – an impossible amount of time for most businesses to wait.

Mr O'Reilly's comments came as the Solar Energy Industry Association hosted a crisis forum on solar industry job losses in Tamworth yesterday, attended by state and federal independent MPs Richard Torbay and Tony Windsor.

The forum followed a recent survey by the association that found 25% of 91 NSW solar businesses had closed their doors or expected to close within the month. It also found 416 solar jobs had been lost in NSW since November 2010 and another 108 were expected within the next four weeks. Under current conditions, 3700 jobs were expected to go by the end of the year.

At the Rainbow Power Company, staff numbers have been reduced by six since the Solar Bonus Scheme announcement. Business that relied more heavily on installations had taken an even bigger blow, Mr O'Reilly said.

He said at it's peak, the industry had built up to installing one megawatt system a day across NSW, a figure to be proud of, but all the money the NSW government had spent fostering the industry now stood to be wasted, as businesses were left with nothing and dropped off one by one.

Mr O'Reilly predicts that by the time the solar tariff review is released in April, larger electricity retailers will have jumped into the void and smaller operators will be forced out.

The industry desperately needed certainty: “It's been left high and dry,” he said.

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