Drop electricity prices or help farmers use less

By QDO President, Brian Tessmann

Despite another week of energy policy posturing, Australia’s climate and energy strategy is getting little traction and remains under pressure from powerful coal interests. There seems to be an attempt from both sides of politics to confuse consumers as to the real cause of higher power prices.

Both politicians and the media appear complicit in continually discussing power generation issues by making wild claims about future blackouts. All the while smoke-screening the real causes of energy price increases that have nothing to do with whether the power is sourced from renewable or coal technologies. Electricity distribution costs, overvaluing distribution assets, retail profit and government financial return on asset expectations are the main reasons behind the ‘energy crisis’ gripping the nation.

Put simply, most renewables can match dirty coal for generation costs. So called clean coal technologies, if ever successful, will likely be more expensive. But generation costs are not the real problem.

The question most rural and regional advocacy groups have been asking for years now is how post-generation costs can be lowered to reduce the strain on farmers and their businesses. It seems clear the Federal and State Governments have no interest in addressing this issue no matter what options are put to them. The result has led to more consumers, including proactive farmers, looking to generate their own renewable power, with some considering in-party or going off the grid entirely. However, the major concern is that as consumers go off-grid, costs for those who remain will increase. This is an untenable situation for farmers who are already dealing with unsustainable prices.

The fact is all dairy farmers use energy for milking and cooling milk. Many also use it to power their substantial irrigation infrastructure. For our local dairy industry to remain internationally competitive, the cost of this energy has to be slashed. To save our dairy industry’s viability, the State and Federal Governments must fund programs that assist farmers to implement on-farm efficiencies or create their own renewable generation.