15/05/2007 - 22:00

Business dares to dream in green

15/05/2007 - 22:00

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State and federal governments’ focus on climate change policy initiatives is expected to lift the prospects of a range of Western Australian businesses dealing with environmental products in coming years.

State and federal governments’ focus on climate change policy initiatives is expected to lift the prospects of a range of Western Australian businesses dealing with environmental products in coming years.

Manufacturers and distributors of water and energy saving devices for the domestic market have been buoyed by the increased rebates on offer, and by the state government’s recent decision to make energy efficiency a key component of new home construction.

Included on the list are solar and gas-powered hot water systems, swimming pool blankets and rainwater tanks.

Elite Pool Covers Pty Ltd director John Webb said the state government’s decision to make domestic pool blankets compulsory on new pools from September 1 was good news for his company of 18 years, which anticipated a steady stream of new business next year.

In addition, the government will increase its Waterwise rebate on domestic pool blankets to $200, or about 50 per cent of the total cost of a cover (whichever is the lesser amount), from July 1.

“Only 4,000 new pools are bought in Western Australia each year and the uptake of these covers will be a gradual process over a 12-month period, so I don’t think there will be an extraordinary rush,” Mr Webb said.

“We’re geared up to make 20,000 domestic covers a year for Australian and overseas markets.”

In light of its increasing domestic and commercial workload, Elite is shifting next month to a 4,700 square metre site in Balcatta, and into what it claims is the largest purpose-built pool cover manufacturing facility in Australia at 1,800sq m.

Mr Webb said he hoped the government would move to mandate commercial swimming pool covers in future. He cited thermal studies that had shown covers could halve the amount of carbon produced from heating a 50-metre Olympic-sized pool for a year, an estimated saving of 300 tonnes of carbon or the equivalent of taking 70 cars off the road each year.

Stage one of Five Star Plus program will also require new homes to have solar or five-star gas hot water systems fitted, along with water efficient showerheads, tap fittings and dual-flush toilets.

In combination with a federal government household rebate of $8,000 from July 1, strong demand is expected for solar powered hot water systems.

Welshpool-based sustainable water and power solutions distributor, Solco Ltd, is expecting a major uptake of solar hot water systems by the domestic market this year.

The company told the Australian Securities Exchange on May 8 that its share price spike (eight cents on May 1 to 12 cents on May 8) was potentially caused by the government’s new solar power commitment.

Solco shares hit a high of 19 cents on May 9.

Solco director John Beech said the company had already experienced a high level of inquiry prior to the rebate increase and mandate announcements, and was in the process of ensuring it had enough supplies to cater to the expected demand.

A federal grant of $14,000 towards installing solar systems in schools and community buildings was also expected to boost demand.

“The supply of panels has been challenging and I think there will be more problems ahead because of the uptake,” Mr Beech said.

“We have a long-term relationship with Sharp, which is one of our manufacturers of photo-voltaic cells, so I anticipate we’ll be in a priority position going forward.”

Mr Beech said the industry had found it difficult to negotiate the whims of governments in the past, as their commitment to providing rebates and remote power solutions had not been consistent.

“We’re very hopeful the momentum will continue. The challenge will be if customers pull back from buying systems before July,” he said.

Other winners from the government’s green push include Canning Vale-based storage tank manufacturer West Coast Poly Pty Ltd, which is set to benefit from the proposed second stage of Five Star Plus requiring alternative water supply systems.

General manager Greg Holmes said that, while WA had not previously had cause to mandate rainwater tanks, such as wide-scale drought, it was generally accepted that water shortages would continue to be felt in many parts of the state in years to come.

Mr Holmes said interest from the domestic market had grown considerably during the past four months as water costs had increased.

“By using rainwater in winter and not drawing from the aquifers, a household can save 40,000 litres of water a year and plenty of money,” he said.

With demand for water tanks on the increase, West Coast Poly and its sister company, Tanks West, are planning to double the size of their premises in Canning Vale later this year.

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