If Queensland Dairyfarmers Organisation vice president Ross McInnes was frustrated with a perceived lack of transparency about electricity pricing decisions before he attended last week’s national energy summit in Toowoomba, it was nothing to how he felt by the end of it.
“My concerns weren’t addressed by government or retailers at all,” he said.
“The information put out by the government and companies isn’t at a level where anyone can follow their strategies.
“I think they’re being extra selective in what’s being said and we have no clear understanding of what our decisions are going to cost us.”
He told the summit, organised by the Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise group to explore the trilemma of reliability, affordability and sustainability, that he was “totally frustrated” with price rises that benefited householders but had no commercial reality.
It costs him 4 per cent more to irrigate at 3am than it does to have power on at his house, 200m away, at a 6pm peak load time.
“It’s all on a knife-edge at the moment,” he said. “Neither state nor federal governments want to annoy the left or right.”
In response to Mr McInnes’ comments about reducing power costs on households, only to push prices ever higher for industry, environmental scientist, Lisa France told the audience it was nearly at an ‘every man for himself’ stage.
“With spiralling costs that don’t seem to be normalising, a lot of my clients want to generate their own electricity.
“They are sick of being beholden, they want to regain their own independence.”
She said she was very concerned about the costs of power for those left in the system after the majority jumped ship to renewables.
Mr McInnes was grateful for the opportunity the summit gave him to listen to other points of view and to network, saying he had finished the day in dialogue with his retailer at long last.
“I hope the summit has given me the ability to ask more questions.
“On the day, I couldn’t even get a straight answer as to who sets the prices. Is it a retailer decison or a directive from government?”
He said no-one had modelled what it would cost people if they chose to go down the renewables path.
“You have to look at the cost of baseload power generation in behind to support a renewable strategy.
“Not doing so is negligent by governments and power companies.”
He raised even more concerns that weren’t addressed on the day, saying that while people could identify the cost that power could be generated by new technology, there was no saying whether that energy would be sold at a low price in a deregulated market.
“I don’t think renewables are the answer, until a new generation of batteries comes online,” he added.