Australia has gone from having a competitive advantage in energy costs to being one of the most expensive countries in the world. As a result, many irrigated and intensified farm businesses are losing their ability to compete globally, risking significant job losses and lower levels of production.
This issue will be further exacerbated for some Queensland farmers and agri-businesses with the removal of transitional and obsolete tariffs from June 30. However, the Queensland Competition Authority's (QCA) final determination on 2021-22 regulated retail electricity prices is not due to until June 11. As a result, farmers remain in the dark about what tariffs will be suitable for irrigation, agri-processing and other agricultural-specific operations, and any significant bill increases that many will face. This leaves farmers less than three weeks to assess the new retail tariffs, decide what is best for their business and implement any structural change or install new equipment.
Interim results from a recent survey of business customers in North Queensland found 50 per cent of customers did not know what electricity tariffs they were currently on; 80pc did not know the status of their tariff (if the tariff was classed as obsolete or transitional); and over 82pc of respondents who had identified that they were on a transitional or obsolete tariff had not spoken to Ergon Retail about their electricity tariff options. This is particularly concerning as farmers who do not transition to the new demand-based tariffs before the deadline will have the decision made for them.
An Australian Energy Regulator report last year revealed that thousands of households and small businesses were in energy debt and struggled to pay bills, with Queensland having the highest rate of electricity disconnections in 2019-20 and more small businesses than ever in more than 90 days of electricity debt. Therefore, QFF continues to call on the Queensland government to set out a clear path for affordable electricity through efficient pricing and increased investment to help farmers improve their energy efficiency and productivity into the future.