Solar systems campaign unites jobs and climate

The campaign to save Solar Systems holds the potential for uniting the fight for jobs and renewable energy.
Its factory in Abbotsford, Victoria currently sits idle after 100 workers were sacked. Australia’s first large scale solar power plant at Mildura, and 1000 green construction jobs, is now under threat. But the $125 million promised by the government for the project has not been released.
Solar Systems needs a new investor fast to stop the factory being dismantled and its assets sold off.
Its fate shows the problems of relying on the market. With solar power currently more expensive than coal, funding large-scale power plants is not attractive to private investors. Only government spending will see renewable energy built on the scale needed. Governments built almost every large piece of infrastructure in Australia’s history—including the coal-fired power plants.
But the demands to “save the jobs” and “fund renewables” have been interpreted differently within the movement. Greens Senator Christine Milne moved a motion in Parliament calling for loan guarantees for Solar Systems and a national feed-in-tariff for renewable energy. But both are a form of subsidy to private business. If the government is going to spend money on renewables it should not subsidise profits. It should invest directly to ensure public control.
This means re-employing the Solar Systems workers on the public pay roll—by nationalising Solar Systems.
Enthusiasm for the campaign is building: GetUp! will launch its “Re-energise Australia” campaign at the rally for Solar Systems on October 11, and will speak along with AMWU State Secretary Steve Dargavel. Combining the forces for climate action and worker’s rights holds the possibility of igniting the power of both.

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