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Jobs threat for solar firms kept in the dark

Jobs threat for solar firms kept in the dark(By Tom Arup via The Age)Australia - SOLAR panel retailers are preparing to cut jobs and halt

expansion plans because of uncertainty over the Government's solar credit

program.Retailers contacted yesterday said they would have to collectively review

the position of hundreds of staff in their call centres and administration

because there is no guarantee the solar credits program will pass the

Senate next week, delaying its process for at least two months.Replacing the $8000 rebate that was abruptly withdrawn last week, the

credit program is part of the Government's renewable energy target

legislation currently before Parliament.The legislation has become embroiled in a political dogfight after the

Government linked industry exemptions from the target to the passage of its

emissions trading scheme, which is likely to be rejected by the Senate next

week.Simon Schauble, chief executive of NuSolar, one of the nation's largest

solar retailers, said he would have to retrench 60 people if the passage of

the bill remained uncertain. Mr Schauble added that he would halt

recruitment plans for another hundred positions if the fate of the credits

program remained in limbo."The biggest issue is it is stalling momentum in the industry," he said.

"We had plans to put on hundreds of people over the next year but we have

stopped that until we know what is going on."Paul Wilson, executive director of retailer Clear Solar, said if the

legislation does not pass next week he would reconsider the positions of 80

employees.Chief executive of the Clean Energy Council Matt Warren said a quick survey

of members yesterday revealed that solar retailers would shed hundreds of

jobs across Victoria if the legislation is delayed."The Government promised a smooth transition for the solar industry between

the rebate and credits system, and the chances of that have now

evaporated," he said.The Opposition was supportive of the renewable energy target legislation,

which will mandate that 20 per cent of electricity must come from renewable

energy by 2020, until it was revealed partial exemptions for trade-exposed

industry would not be granted until the emissions trading scheme is passed.The Opposition will attempt to "decouple" the target and trading scheme

with a Senate amendment but are split in the party room on whether to vote

for the bill if that amendment fails. Opposition resources and energy

spokesman Ian MacFarlane, and Nationals Senators Barnaby Joyce and Ron

Boswell, are pushing hard to block the bill if it is not amended. Climate

Change Minister Penny Wong yesterday said renewable energy target

legislation contained a provision to backdate the solar credit program to

any solar panel sold after the end of the rebate program last Monday. "The

Government is committed to passing this legislation," she said."We call on the Opposition to act responsibly and support the renewable

energy target."It is understood the Government's Senate schedule has listed the renewable

legislation bill as "desirable" but not "urgent" to pass next week, which

means it will sit behind other bills, including the emissions trading

scheme, in order of priority.For the latest renewable energy jobs across Australia and globally please

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