SA turns to gen­er­a­tors

Dairy News Australia - - NEWS / SOUTH AUSTRALIA - RICK BAYNE

dairy­farm­ers are turn­ing to diesel gen­er­a­tors and power price bro­kers as they bat­ten down against more crip­pling in­creases in en­ergy costs. Dairy farm­ers across Aus­tralia are be­ing crushed un­der the weight of power prices, with climb­ing power bills im­pact­ing their abil­ity to stay com­pet­i­tive. The ris­ing cost of elec­tric­ity has hit farm­ers hard, with Aus­tralian Dairy Coun­cil fig­ures claim­ing that Aus­tralian dairy farm­ers spend be­tween $35 and $75/day on elec­tric­ity to power their dairies, com­pared to be­tween $20 and $45/ day seven years ago. Al­ready pay­ing the coun­try’s high­est power bills, South Aus­tralian farm­ers fear they won’t cope with an­other mas­sive slug on their ex­penses.

It costs 40 per cent more to run a dairy in South Aus­tralia than across the border in Vic­to­ria

Many farm­ers have brought diesel gen­er­a­tors as back-up after last year’s power black­outs, but, fly­ing in the face of the state’s re­new­ables am­bi­tions, they now might need them as cheaper al­ter­na­tives to reg­u­lar power sup­plies. Farmer and SA Dairy­farm­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion (SADA) board mem­ber Sharon Jop­pich from Kalan­gadoo north of Mt Gam­bier, said the state’s power prices and prob­lems were “a joke”. “We haven’t had the first round of bills but I did some rough maths and worked out it would add about $700 a quar­ter to our dairy power alone. We’re al­ready pay­ing up to $5000 a quar­ter just to run the dairy.” Mrs Jop­pich said the farm had bought a diesel gen­er­a­tor be­cause the state’s power sup­ply was so un­re­li­able. “We’re do­ing the sums at the mo­ment and it might be cheaper to run our dairy on a diesel gen­er­a­tor,” she added. “De­pend­ing on which re­port you read and we won’t re­ally know un­til we get our ac­counts, they’re pre­dict­ing we’ll be pay­ing be­tween 20 and 40 per cent more,” Mrs Jop­pich said. “The big­gest con­cern is that we’re go­ing to pay twice; we’ll pay our own ac­counts and then through the mas­sive costs the milk pro­ces­sors are go­ing to pass on to farm­ers. “We can­not con­tinue to ab­sorb more costs; dairy farm­ers are pretty much al­ready work­ing for noth­ing as it is.” Mrs Jop­pich said a SADA anal­y­sis shows it costs 40 per cent more to run a dairy in South Aus­tralia than across the border in Vic­to­ria. “There’s not much more the far­m­gate can ab­sorb,” she said. There were 80 000 South Aus­tralian cows af­fected by black­outs last year, prompt­ing SADA to make ar­range­ments with SA power net­works to get dairies back on as a pri­or­ity as an an­i­mal wel­fare is­sue. New mea­sures are in place to ease the black- out threat this sum­mer but farm­ers are not con­vinced and fear more price hikes. “We’re lob­by­ing very hard but ev­ery gov­ern­ment passes the buck,” Mrs Jop­pich said. “It’s an ab­so­lute joke.” “There are no in­cen­tives to go to so­lar or wind and how does it change the re­new­able tar­get when peo­ple are go­ing back to diesel gen­er­a­tors?” Mount Tor­rens farmer and SADA board mem­ber Rick Gladi­gau said farm­ers were pre­par­ing for “pumped up prices”. Mr Gladi­gau has or­gan­ised his power through a bro­ker and has had only one bill for com­par­i­son, but he’s not hope­ful.

“The gov­ern­ment says the price will come down with ev­ery­thing they’re do­ing, but I don’t be­lieve that,” he said. “The talk is that the price will go up fur­ther be­fore it comes down and it’s al­ready the most ex­pen­sive place in the world.” “We can’t pass on the price and the con­cern is that pro­ces­sors’ power bills are go­ing up and they’ll pass it on to the farmer.” SADA has worked with the gov­ern­ment on re­li­a­bil­ity and is hope­ful this sum­mer will be bet­ter than 2016–17, with mea­sures such as back-up gen­er­a­tors and in­ter­state con­nec­tions in place. “The con­cern has eased a bit but last year was just a disas­ter,” Mr Gladi­gau said. “I’ve had my farm 25 years and been on my par­ents’ farm be­fore that and I’ve never had a year like it. I bought a gen­er­a­tor be­cause I’d had a gut­ful. “We used to get power out for 12 hours and you’d man­age; when it’s out for a few days and I’ve got cows that aren’t get­ting milked I’m not a happy chappy.” “It’s crazy. We keep talk­ing of be­ing a clean, green en­ergy state and yet peo­ple are out buy­ing diesel gen­er­a­tors.” Dairy-SA has been run­ning en­ergy fo­rums to help farm­ers un­der­stand en­ergy costs and to out­line po­ten­tial on-farm sav­ings.

Sharon Jop­pich

Rick Gladi­gau.

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