CHEAP imported wind towers crippling Portland manufacturer Keppel Prince will at last be investigated by the federal government in a bid to save the company.
The Australian Anti-dumping Commission yesterday announced it would investigate claims that companies in China and Korea are deliberately selling towers to Australia below the cost of production — and even below retail prices in their home countries.
Keppel Prince wants the federal government to enforce a 44 per cent tariff on overseas turbines.
General manager Steve Garner described the announcement as a huge step towards blocking cheap imports that has seen the business miss out on contracts, putting jobs at risk.
“For us it’s a major step because it sends a message to the world that customs has recognised the damage that has been done,” Mr Garner said.
“It has taken us a long time — we’ve been at this in excess of 12 months.
“If this situation is allowed to continue it will destroy hundreds of manufacturing jobs in the Australian clean energy sector, and many more indirect jobs.”
The company will know roughly by January 30 if the customs minister will slap heavy tariffs on the overseas towers.
But Mr Garner said news of the investigation would have an immediate effect “on the thinking” of developers looking to purchase towers before then.
The developer behind the south-west’s largest planned wind farm in Penshurst said it would now reconsider where it sourced its towers.
RES Australia’s Penshurst wind farm project developer Simon Kerrison said companies would think twice over the coming months about where they take their turbines from.
“It will definitely be a factor when we are thinking of sourcing the towers,” Mr Kerrison said.
“We look to supply our wind farms locally if they are economic.”
Keppel Prince is Australia’s largest wind tower manufacturer and is undertaking the claim from Tasmanian-based tower maker called Haywards.
“Towers are being dumped at unprofitable and unsustainably low prices into the Australian market, causing significant injury to our manufacturing companies.
“It is for these reasons we are calling on members across the wind industry sector for their support on this matter,” Haywards general manager Steve Edmunds said.
An Adelaide-based company, RPG Australia, was forced to close last year after buckling under pressure from imports.
Keppel Prince has enough work to see it comfortably through to the middle of next year.
In June it secured a contact for 51 towers at the Taralga wind farm but only after the Commonwealth’s green project bank, known as the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), paid for the price difference between the local towers and imported ones.
The move saved about 70 jobs at the Portland factory.
The Coalition plans to scrap the CEFC if it wins the September 7 election.