Power cost cut appeals

By Country News

A 73 per cent reduction in electricity costs for pumping irrigation water would be music to the ears of producers, according to the National Irrigators’ Council.

NIC chief executive officer Steve Whan was speaking after he attended an open day for a solar pumping project that has reduced one farm’s pumping costs from $116/Ml to $23.14/Ml.

He said the ability to significantly reduce power bills also put Australia back on the map as a competitive producer of food and fibre.

‘‘Australians have always been proud of our country’s capacity to efficiently and cost-effectively grow the food and fibre we need and to be a food bowl for other countries,’’ Mr Whan said.

‘‘But over the last few years our much valued competitive advantage as an agricultural producer has disappeared under the weight of skyrocketing electricity and water prices.

‘‘The agricultural sector is at the forefront of take-up of renewable energy.

‘‘In the last three years, farmers have taken up loan incentives offered by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, spending over $100million on 417 on-grid and 20 off-grid solar power projects, more than any other single sector.

‘‘Governments must address the ridiculous energy costs that are causing these problems in the first place.

‘‘We believe a price ceiling is necessary and achievable and it should be a maximum of 16 cents per kilowatt hour.’’

Mr Whan said ‘‘exorbitant network costs’’ were forcing farmers off-grid.

‘‘We want that situation reversed, but in the meantime it would be better for Australia if those farmers went to renewables rather than being forced — as many have been — to install diesel generators instead.’’