Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Tradesmen 'face ruin' as solar-energy business collapses | The Australian

Tradesmen 'face ruin' as solar-energy business collapses | The Australian

A COMPANY that acted as a clearing house for solar panel installers to trade their renewable energy certificates has collapsed owing up to $7 million -- sparking warnings tradesmen will be forced to the wall.

Creditors to the company Well Being Green, which was placed in administration this month, will next week receive a report into its affairs that is expected to show directors moved about $1.6m out of the company in the weeks before it collapsed. Of this, more than $500,000 is suspected to have been sent to Pakistan, where Ali Obeid, the brother of the company's sole director, Nasir Naveed, moved to after the administrator was appointed.

Mr Naveed has told the company's administrator most of the money taken out of the company was used to pay creditors and to fund a call centre.

Administrator Pino Fiorentino said he was examining the withdrawals from the company and the transfers to Pakistan as far back as 2007.

He said Mr Naveed had been co-operating with his inquiries, giving him access to records, and had told him most of the withdrawals had been used to pay creditors. He had claimed the money that had been transferred to Pakistan had been used to fund a call centre.

But Brian Carroll, whose Allsafe Energy Efficient Products is owed $1.2m, said the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator should have conducted due diligence and warned installers there were risks in using an intermediary. Mr Carroll's company runs nine stores and employs about 40 people. Solar panels and solar hotwater systems generate renewable energy certificates and installers pay householders the value of the certificates and then redeem them through intermediaries.

"One or two stores have a real prospect of having to close their doors very, very soon," he said.

Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt said he had written to the minister months ago about Mr Carroll's problems. "We have taken all the steps we possibly could to let them know and at this stage there's a complete blind eye," he said.

A spokesman for Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said disputes between solar panel installers and intermediaries usually needed to be handled under the normal commercial and consumer dispute resolution processes. "Registration (in the scheme) allows a person to hold legal title to certificates -- it was not created to be a government endorsement of a company or their products," he said.

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