The ongoing uncertainty over transitional and obsolete tariffs has meant many farmers are being forced to negotiate higher cost demand-based tariffs, or invest in costly infrastructure and get off the grid altogether.
St George farmer, Ian Todd, Wagaby, has made the decision to switch to diesel-driven pumps, despite the initial expenditure, because electricity will no longer be a viable option from July 1, 2020.
Farming 4000 hectares including 1200ha developed for irrigation, Mr Todd said he compared his energy expenditure in a 12 month period on Tariff 62 to the cost in the same period on the proposed demand-based tariffs for farmers, T44, 45, and 46, and found that his power bill would go from $138,000 to $375,000, an increase of 270 per cent.
“I can change it all to diesel for less than that,” he said.
“Those figures are based on when electricity was a fair bit cheaper than now, and electricity has gone up enough by itself without burdening that with the new tariff system, so it's just what we've got to do. We've got to stay ahead of the game and we've got to keep upgrading.”
With just weeks left until construction on the new diesel pump station is complete, Mr Todd said if a better arrangement couldn’t be reached with Ergon Energy by the 2020 deadline, they would be off the grid.
“We’ve got all of these poles and wires that were purpose built for irrigation, but myself and everybody else on the line are doing exactly the same thing, we're all going to diesel,” he said.
“That means you've got more poles and wires that somebody else is going to have to pay for because we aren't paying for them and we're not going to use the electricity, so the whole thing is just absolutely ridiculous.”
Mr Todd said it was absurd to think that all of the existing infrastructure was going to become obsolete. “They talk about their gold-plated infrastructure, well it's going to get a whole lot more gold-plated because they've got a lot of stuff doing nothing,” he said.
“They came to us and wanted us to start using electricity, and now here they are being about as discouraging as they could possibly be.
“The governments have a fair input into the electricity markets, they seem to be able to fix the urban electricity issues, but obviously they don't seem to be able to fix this one.”
Despite becoming involved in a program with Ergon Energy to investigate smarter ways to use electricity, Mr Todd said energy suppliers and government should be negotiating and working with industry to come up with a resolution. “There just doesn't seem to be any sensible way forward at present.”