The solar panel industry is warning thousands of jobs and businesses could be at risk if the Abbott government scraps the renewable energy target (RET).

The bipartisan target – which requires 20 per cent of all electricity by 2020 to come from renewable sources – will be reviewed this year but details are yet to be announced.

The government insists it remains committed to the RET but many in the renewables sector are nervous the scheme will be watered down or abolished.

The solar photovoltaic (PV) industry is particularly worried, with new analysis showing 2000 PV jobs could vanish next year if the RET was scrapped.

The study by Solar Business Services claims by 2018 that figure could have grown to 7000 jobs lost or foregone – halving the entire PV sector.

“In the worst case scenario, this is going to really have a very serious consequence on the industry,” solar industry analyst Nigel Morris.

Around 600 solar PV jobs were forecast to go if the 20 per cent target was reduced.  It’s the latest in a spate of bad news for the solar sector.

Mr Morris said the sector had seen scheme after scheme scrapped in recent years, stopping growth in its tracks last year for the first time in more than a decade.

The suspension of loans from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, funding cuts to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the windback of subsidies had taken its toll, he said.

“If all of those things and the RET goes away, it has a combined phenomenal impact on the propensity of people to proceed with solar,” Mr Morris said.

There is strong evidence the 20 per cent RET will be well exceeded and critics, including within the government, warn renewable power is already unnecessarily driving up retail power bills.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott late last year said the RET had caused pretty significant price pressure on domestic electricity costs.

Mr Morris said these “pessimistic” statements made the industry skittish about the future and confused consumers.

“The cost of the RET is minuscule and it is declining already,” he said.

“The RET has virtually no cost to government.”


By Nick Perry