Elec­tric­ity a ma­jor elec­tion con­cern

Warwick Daily News - South West Queensland Rural Weekly - - Bush Banter - PAT HANNAN Grow­com CEO

GROW­ERS re­main frus­trated at ever-in­creas­ing elec­tric­ity costs. De­spite “noise” in po­lit­i­cal cir­cles, very lit­tle seems to be hap­pen­ing. As prices con­tinue to go up and in­fra­struc­ture con­tin­ues to be called out as in­ad­e­quate, there is no clear strat­egy to in­cor­po­rate re­new­able en­ergy sources. The cur­rent ap­proach is de­void of any plan­ning or guide­lines and the pur­suit of large-scale so­lar farms is dam­ag­ing our in­dus­try. This is unac­cept­able.

Hor­ti­cul­ture grow­ers have a wide va­ri­ety of on-farm elec­tric­ity re­quire­ments to cater for their highly per­ish­able com­modi­ties. Th­ese pro­cesses in­clude pow­er­ing ir­ri­ga­tion pumps, large-scale re­frig­er­a­tors and cool­ing tech­nolo­gies, air and wa­ter clean­ing, light­ing, con­veyor sys­tems, as well as run­ning pro­cess­ing ma­chin­ery to get prod­ucts mar­ket ready. Al­though the ap­pli­ca­tions of th­ese pro­cesses vary be­tween farm busi­nesses, the enor­mous col­lec­tive costs as­so­ci­ated with op­er­at­ing the equip­ment in­volved re­mains the same.

Our grow­ers em­brace a whole-of-farm en­ergy use ap­proach in­clud­ing wa­ter, ir­ri­ga­tion and on-farm pro­cess­ing. This ap­proach is essen­tial if we are to ad­dress the un­sus­tain­able elec­tric­ity price in­creases in Queens­land. In­creas­ing elec­tric­ity costs are neg­a­tively im­pact­ing in­vest­ment de­ci­sions by our grow­ers and putting pres­sure on the en­gage­ment of labour.

The State Gov­ern­ment’s En­ergy Savers pro­gram has demon­strated there is sec­tor-wide in­ter­est in im­ple­ment­ing en­ergy ef­fi­cient tech­nolo­gies, and we com­mend the gov­ern­ment for that in­vest­ment. How­ever, fu­ture ex­tended pro­grams must be fully in­te­grated to ac­com­mo­date all elec­tric­ity, wa­ter and pro­duc­tiv­ity out­comes on-farm.

It is clear from the “take-up” of the En­ergy Savers Pro­gram that hor­ti­cul­ture grow­ers are not wait­ing around on the prom­ise of even­tual price re­lief in or­der to main­tain their busi­nesses vi­a­bil­ity and keep the cost of fresh food af­ford­able for fam­i­lies. How­ever, on-farm so­lu­tions can only go so far, and the de­liv­ery of ur­gently needed struc­tural change and re­form across the elec­tric­ity in­dus­try by gov­ern­ment is essen­tial to en­sure grow­ers are not car­ry­ing the bur­den them­selves. Grow­com will be work­ing with the Queens­land Farm­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion (QFF) to hold all po­lit­i­cal par­ties to ac­count on the im­por­tant is­sue of elec­tric­ity pric­ing and af­ford­abil­ity.

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