QUEENSLAND irrigators are up in arms over new electricity business tariffs, which are set to further increase the cost of energy for agriculture.
Canegrowers director and Tablelands sugarcane grower Rajinder Singh said growers were not moving to the new business tariffs because they imposed higher charges than the transitional tariffs.
“The new tariffs just do not reflect irrigation use profiles or the low cost of supplying electricity to farmers on uncongested parts of the network,” Mr Singh said.
Mr Singh said Canegrowers supported a transition to cost reflective tariffs. However, he said it was important that the new tariffs reflected real costs of supplying electricity.
“The ACCC has agreed that electricity costs are too high,” Mr Singh said.
“It has invited the Queensland Government to voluntarily write down the value of Energy Queensland’s networks to help solve the problem.
The new tariffs just do not reflect irrigation use profiles or the low cost of supplying electricity to farmers on uncongested parts of the network.
“The Australian Energy Regulator has also indicated that the return to government from those assets is too high and it is proposing a reduction.”
The growing concern comes as it was revealed that Queensland Government departments, statutory authorities and government-owned corporations continue to enjoy cheaper electricity on soon-to-be obsolete tariffs, despite farmers being told to shift to more expensive business tariffs.
LNP opposition agriculture spokesman Tony Perrett said more than 761 taxpayer-funded government energy users have been exposed as still using Ergon Energy’s obsolete transitional tariffs.
“We have a situation where the Labor Minister responsible for energy prices Anthony Lynham has been preaching that farmers should be restructuring their businesses to accommodate for the impending tariff changes post 2020,” Mr Perrett said.
“But at the same time we have a government not transitioning because the numbers just don’t add up.
“You can’t on the one hand be telling farmers to change their energy tariffs insisting it will be cheaper, while not changing over your own accounts.
“Quite obviously the economics behind these business tariffs just don’t add up, that’s why both farmers and government departments alike are not transitioning.
“How out of touch is Minister Lynham to be telling farmers to suck it up and make changes all the while not having his own house in order?”
The Queensland Competition Authority in 2016 identified that there were about 42,000 regional businesses currently on eight different tariffs classified as transitional or obsolete. About 17,400 of these connections are for farming and irrigation purposes.