A 73% reduction in electricity costs for pumping irrigation water would not just be music to the ears of producers but would also put Australia back on the map as a competitive producer of food and fibre, says National Irrigators’ Council (NIC) CEO, Steve Whan. 

Steve Whan was commenting as part of an open day at a Bundaberg Regional Irrigators Group (BRIG) ARENA funded solar pumping project that has reduced one farm’s pumping costs from $116 per megalitre to $23.14.

Steve Whan said “Australians’ have always been proud of our country’s capacity to efficiently and cost effectively grow the food and fibre we need and to be a ‘food bowl’ for other countries.  But over the last few years our much valued ‘competitive advantage’ as an agricultural producer has disappeared under the weight of skyrocketing electricity and water prices.

“The crippling electricity bills causing Australia to lose its competitive position as a grower of food and fibre could be reduced if more farmers are able to follow the lead set by a BRIG solar pumping project.

“At an open day today farmers from as far away as the Central Downs have seen the sort of benefit, they could gain for their business, by looking at this kind of solution.

“The agricultural sector is at the forefront of take-up of renewable energy. In the last three years, farmers have taken up loan incentives offered by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), spending over $100 million on 417 on grid and 20 off grid solar power projects, more than any other single sector.

“Projects like Bundaberg’s are a great example of the capacity to reduce costs. For many farmers they will be suitable without grant funding, for some others they will need to combine storage capacity, and it would be useful to see a future Government assisting with funding.

“Governments must address the ridiculous energy costs that are causing these problems in the first place.  We believe a price ceiling is necessary and achievable and it should be a maximum of 16 cents per kilowatt hour.

“The bottom line here is that exorbitant network costs are forcing farmers off grid.

“We want that situation reversed, but in the meantime it would be better for Australia if those farmers went to renewables rather than being forced – as many have been – to install diesel generators instead.”

Media Contact:  Steve Whan 0429 780 883
Wednesday 15 May 2019