Cost has ag left in the dark

The Western Star - - Rural Weekly - QFF pres­i­dent Stu­art Ar­mitage

AUS­TRALIA has gone from hav­ing a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage in en­ergy costs to be­ing one of the most ex­pen­sive coun­tries in the world.

The price of elec­tric­ity has in­creased about 10 times the rate of in­fla­tion over the past 10 years for Queens­land farm­ers.

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.

Many re­gional cus­tomers face fur­ther bill in­creases when they are forced on to stan­dard busi­ness de­mand-based tar­iffs.

While the State Gov­ern­ment last week ex­tended the dead­line for small and large cus­tomers in re­gional Queens­land on tran­si­tional and ob­so­lete tar­iffs to June 30, 2021, it does not in­clude all Queens­land farm­ers and busi­nesses or buy enough time for those forced to change.

De­spite 65 per cent of Queens­land be­ing drought de­clared and the high cost of elec­tric­ity mak­ing many farm­ing busi­nesses un­sus­tain­able, the dead­line ex­ten­sion only ap­plies to cus­tomers on the Er­gon net­work.

This po­ten­tially ex­cludes farm­ers and busi­nesses op­er­at­ing in south east Queens­land and un­fairly dis­ad­van­tages them be­cause they are on the En­ergex net­work where tar­iffs are at the dis­cre­tion of re­tail­ers and based on the net­work tar­iff op­tions.

Fur­ther­more, re­tail tar­iff pric­ing un­der the 2020-25 reg­u­la­tory con­trol pe­riod will not be known un­til May 2020, this cou­pled with lim­ited to no us­age data makes se­lec­tion choices is un­rea­son­able.

The cur­rent lack of clar­ity on what re­tail tar­iffs would be suit­able for ir­ri­ga­tion and other agri­cul­tural-spe­cific op­er­a­tions post July 1, 2020, and the sig­nif­i­cant bill in­creases farm­ers may face mov­ing from tran­si­tional tar­iffs to stan­dard busi­ness de­mand-based tar­iffs is unac­cept­able.

The Queens­land Gov­ern­ment must set out a clear path for af­ford­able en­ergy.

With­out a gen­uine tran­si­tion pro­gram, farm­ers will be left in the dark.

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