Study to find affordable energy solutions for farmers

Three agricultural representative groups have commissioned research into options to provide better access to more affordable energy for farmers in Queensland and New South Wales.

The project is being conducted by NSW Irrigators’ Council (NSWIC), Cotton Australia and the Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) and has been funded by Energy Consumers Australia (ECA).

The research will be carried out by the Sydney-based Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney and will combine a desktop study with case studies and interviews with growers.

NSWIC policy manager Stefanie Schulte said the study would bring together previous research on energy use and pricing with new investigations on how farmers have tackled the energy challenges, including those who have implemented renewable energy solutions.

“Electricity supply is a complex issue and we need everyone to work together to solve these key issues,” Ms Schulte says.

“Electricity has become a significant input factor in Australia’s food and fibre production and successive price increases have significantly impacted our ability to remain competitive while utilising modern, water-efficient irrigation equipment.”

“Finding a solution to the electricity conundrum is not only important for the future of the national electricity market but also vital for Australian agriculture to compete internationally.

“It is hoped that by bringing this research and case studies to the table our conversation with energy networks will inform their future strategic planning on regional energy supply.”

Ms Schulte said the study would also investigate the potential for renewable technologies to be better integrated with existing grid networks, and complement other energy projects led by the agricultural sector.

“It is vital studies such as this continue to explore alternative energy management strategies and technologies so that agricultural producers have access to what is a critical input in their production process,” Ms Schulte says.

“The pursuit of mutually beneficial solutions is also important for energy providers, who risk holding stranded assets if energy users such as farmers withdraw from the grid.”

The report will be delivered by the end of the year.