According to the Australian Energy Regulator, there was an 82 per cent increase in the number of small businesses disconnected by Ergon Retail last financial year. With some farmers on the receiving end of electricity cost increases of more than 200pc in 10 years, while CPI has increased by just 24pc over the same period. It therefore comes as no surprise that farmers are looking to alternative energy solutions to power their productivity.
The Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF), its industry member Cotton Australia and the NSW Irrigators’ Council are conducting a study to provide better access to more affordable energy for those on the land. Funded by Energy Consumers Australia, the project explores the challenges farmers face in installing solar generation assets on farm and their ability to feed excess energy back into the grid.
As part of the study, several focus groups and farm visits have been undertaken across Queensland. These consultation sessions identified that the lack of policy clarity around energy, coupled with uncertainty around transitional and obsolete tariffs and replacement tariffs, was causing some farmers to defer solar investment decisions. Farmers also identified a challenge in identifying and working with solar installers and suppliers who are not experienced in individual on-farm needs. These and other issues need to be overcome, as solar energy can play a role in driving on-farm energy and water productivity.
For Australian agriculture to remain strong at local and international levels in the long-term, we require solutions to this complex issue. To help researchers obtain a solid understanding of the range of energy issues that must be managed, QFF encourages farmers and irrigators to get involved in the research and embrace the opportunity to have their views about solar heard. Visit the QFF website to complete the online survey or contact research partner Kriti Nagrath of the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney on (02) 9514 4399. The survey closes August 31.