The energy price crisis affecting Australian agriculture is not going away, and our food and fibre producers want to see focus on solutions,rather than argument, in the current election campaign – that’s the message from the Ag Energy Taskforce in its election policy.

The Ag Energy Taskforce is an informal group of Agricultural peak bodies convened by the National Irrigators’ Council and involving the National, Queensland and NSW Farmers, commodity groups and regional irrigators.

CEO of the NIC Steve Whan said “our call to the candidates and parties at the coming election is to act to make the electricity market work like a market; to eliminate the excessive profit margins that are costing Australia jobs and production; and back primary producers in moving to renewable power with storage.

“Our bottom line is current energy prices are too high for Australia to be competitive with the rest of the world. That’s a sad state of affairs for a country with so many natural advantages in agriculture and energy. We believe that there should be a price ceiling – a maximum – of 16 cents /kWh.

“Farmers including irrigation farmers are very keen to move into renewables wherever possible. In fact, the sector has the biggest take up of CEFC grants, funding hundreds of on and off grid solar installations – with many more funded solely by the farmer.

“But solar without storage or diesel backup doesn’t work for everyone and the increasingly high cost of power from the grid is having the bizarre outcome of seeing some producers going off grid and instead installing diesel generators using imported fossil fuels.”

Michael Murray, General Manager – Operations for Cotton Australia said of the situation in Queensland “while the latest draft determination by the Queensland Competition Authority has forecast some easing in prices for regional Queenslanders, it has, once again, failed to address the impending disaster for forced migration to demand based tariffs for many rural users. In some cases this will see individual bills increase by up to 300%, forcing those users off the grid, and feeding the well-recognised ‘death spiral’.”

Steve Whan concluded, “this problem has been a decade in the making, a decade of policy confusion resulting in bizarre outcomes. This election must see the end of the energy and climate wars, we need policy certainty.”

Off the grid or off the plate – Ag Energy Taskforce 2019 Federal election policy

Key Policy Points:

  • 16 cents/kWh maximum
  • Implement ACCC recommendations
  • Optimise the Regulated Asset Base
  • Introduction of irrigator tariffs
  • Genuine competition in the NEM
  • Make it easier to build local networks
  • Reduce barriers to connecting on-farm generation to the grid
  • Policy certainty
  • A $250 million water and energy productivity program
  • Funding support for policy engagement

Media Contact: Steve Whan 0429 780 883
April 2019