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AU: Electricity crisis needs to be addressed according to farming groups

The Queensland Farmers Federation (QFF) and Growcom have called on all political parties to make addressing the 'electricity crisis' a priority in this month's state election campaign.

The representative organisations say there is no clear strategy that involves serious structural change and despite both parties being in government over the past decade, with several different Ministers, prices continue to go up and infrastructure continues to be called out as inadequate.

“The productivity, competitiveness and viability of farming and other regional businesses in Queensland is being challenged, almost solely due to the rising cost of electricity," QFF President Stuart Armitage said. "If real action is not taken, regional jobs will continue to be lost and regional economies will continue to suffer."

Horticulture growers have a variety of on-farm electricity requirements include powering irrigation pumps, large scale refrigerators and cooling technologies, air and water cleaning, lighting, conveyor systems, as well as running processing machinery to get perishable products to market. Mr Armitage says while small steps are being taken, action needs to go further.

“QFF acknowledges that solving the ‘energy crisis’ will not happen overnight," he said. "Sustained pressure from agricultural industries year after year has forced Queensland’s political parties to at least acknowledge and attempt to address the ‘energy crisis'. It has been encouraging to see some good policies presented during this election, but unfortunately, no party has offered the holistic approach our sector needs. To achieve this, Queensland must change the way it has historically treated energy policy. Some immediate steps must be taken to provide much needed price relief followed by a longer-term agenda to realise a more sustainable system."

The QFF has highlighted four core areas that must be addressed for a holistic solution to ensure farmers can access power at the right price and use it more effectively. These include optimising network assets and set network prices at efficient levels (at least 40 per cent below existing levels), removing the hidden taxes on the Government Owned Corporations (GOCs), either retaining existing agricultural tariffs (T62, 65 and 66) or developing new appropriate tariffs, and supporting better demand management and on-farm energy efficiency practices.

“Over the past decade farmers have experienced electricity price increases of at least 130 per cent" Mr Armitage said. "For some, the cost of this basic need and critical farm input has risen by 300 per cent. Over the same period, CPI has increased by just 21 per cent. One major Queensland horticulture business’s bill would increase from $780,000/year to $1 million/year this year without any change. This represents a $280,000 net loss to their bottom line.”

Growcom adds that the State Government’s Energy Savers program has demonstrated that there is sector-wide interest in implementing energy efficient technologies, but on-farm solutions can only go so far without government reform across the electricity industry.

Queensland will go to the polls on November 25.

For more information:
Stuart Armitage
Queensland Farmers Federation
Phone: +61 7 3837 4722

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