CANEGROWERS back farm electricity price trials

Power package offers opportunity for farms to prove pricing problems

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The Queensland Productivity Commission’s Electricity Pricing Inquiry Final Report was handed down yesterday prompting the State Government to announce a $10 million Regional Business Support Package.

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Queensland’s peak body for sugarcane growers has welcomed the Queensland Government’s announcement of a $10 million Regional Business Support Package which includes funding for a series of farm electricity pricing trials.

The package was announced in response to the Queensland Productivity Commission’s Electricity Pricing Inquiry Final Report which was released on November 30. 

CANEGROWERS CEO Dan Galligan said his organisation had been advocating for assistance measures for farmers and reform in power tariff structures for more than five years.

“This support package will not lower prices immediately but it is an important positive intervention by the Government to finally acknowledge and fund the many problems skyrocketing electricity prices have caused to farming businesses.”

Of most relevance to CANEGROWERS members, the package includes:

  • a tariff trial for small agricultural customers;
  • a campaign to better explain the bill impacts of different tariff options and to promote energy audit services; 
  • enhancements to Ergon’s online EnergyCheck platform to better serve customers on transitional and obsolete tariffs; and
  • deployment of digital meters to large customers.

ARC UP spokesman, Dale Holliss said his group was still reviewing the detial of the final report.

“We are still demanding immediate action on a price reduction of 33 per cent from the Queensland Government who are the 100 per cent owners of Ergon, Powerlink and Energex,” he said.

“Electricity is still the number one financial worry for small business and irrigators in regional Queensland.” 

Sugarcane growers are now needed for the tariff trial which CANEGROWERS has negotiated and developed with Ergon and the Government.

“The Agricultural Tariff Trial project is an opportunity for irrigators to help gather data to support fairer electricity prices,” Mr Galligan said. “This is an important step in our long-running campaign and should lay the foundation for future changes.”

The trial will collect information on the impact of existing tariffs, transitional tariffs and new demand tariffs on farm businesses.

It will also collect vital data on when growers are using electricity, and at what quantity, to build a clear picture of the electricity load profile of irrigators. 

“While this does not fix the artificially high costs of supplying electricity in regional Queensland and is not the price cut that CANEGROWERS has been seeking, this trial project is welcome,” Mr Galligan said. 

“We believe the data that is gathered will confirm irrigators’ electricity use patterns, verify the size of the load they place on Ergon’s network and demonstrate what value proposed tariff structures will have for irrigators.

“We know our members are facing huge and crippling electricity bills and that current structures are not working to reduce this impact. No sector of the economy can continue under a regime that has pushed its electricity costs up 120% since 1 July 2007.”

Three groups of Ergon agricultural customers are needed for the Agricultural Tariff Trial project:

·       Growers on existing transitional tariffs (T62, T65, T66) who are willing to have smart meters fitted to measure their electricity use patterns;

·       Growers on existing transitional tariffs who are willing to trial a new time of use tariff option (T24) with a safety net to ensure they are not financially disadvantaged compared with current tariffs); and

·       Growers on existing transitional tariffs who are willing to move to a control load tariff (T33) which will deliver lower prices, but could mean power is not available for up to 6 hours a day.

All participants will have smart meters fitted free of charge to their switchboard to record time of use data. Cane growers seeking more information should contact their local CANEGROWERS office.

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