The promotion of an irrigation electricity tariff to a wider group of farmers is a small but welcome step towards addressing the huge burden power costs are placing on agriculture, CANEGROWERS says.
The tariff offers price reductions of between 15 and 25c/kWh on current irrigation tariffs for peak periods to irrigators who agree to have their supply interrupted without warning, fit business size criteria and agree to pay for any required meter box changes.
“In exchange for cheaper electricity, growers who move to this load control tariff called T33 could have the power to their water pumps switched off at any time to meet demand in the rest of the network,” CANEGROWERS CEO Dan Galligan said. “While this will not suit all farms and this tariff is still in a trial phase, the saving on offer may be welcome by some irrigators.
“I urge anyone looking at this to assess their own electricity use profile and weigh carefully the cost benefits and the potential impact on their crop of an interrupted power supply.
“We also urge Ergon to ensure that growers can change their tariff selection at any time without penalty should T33 not suit their business.”
Bundaberg CANEGROWERS Chairman Allan Dingle is one of five farmers who’ve been on an initial trial of T33 for the past year.
“The advantages of the price reduction far out-weigh the inconvenience of having the power turned off at any time and then having to go out and re-start the pump when supply returns,” Mr Dingle said.
“In the 12 months I’ve been on the trial the electricity to that particular pump was cut off for a 2-3 hour period at end of February 2018 on one extremely hot day – that’s the only time it’s interfered with my irrigation. If the power was cut at any other time I wouldn’t have known because I wasn’t irrigating.”
Mr Dingle says he is saving around $4,500 in fixed charges on the 40kW pump by moving from his previous tariff, T66, to T33.
“Growers are paying that fixed charge amount on T66 whether they use their pump or not so that is definitely something to consider,” he said.
While he’s found it difficult to compare his electricity usage costs under the trial to previous years because flooding in October 2017 meant his utilisation of irrigation wasn’t what it would have been for a normal year, Mr Dingle is applying to put another pump onto the extended trial.
“This is not the be all and end all to solve irrigation cost problems in agriculture but it is a positive step and should encourage Ergon to look at other tariff options for farmers.”
CANEGROWERS has estimated irrigators who pump water between 7am and 9pm on week days using T62 could achieve savings of up to 25.5c/kWh in usage charges on their power bills while those who pump water using T65 during peak periods could save up to 15.8c/kWh in usage charges.
Widening the pool of growers on the T33 tariff trial will also provide more data on electricity use in irrigation and help to demonstrate that farms are generally not imposing a cost burden on the network.
CANEGROWERS CEO Dan Galligan said the control load tariff trial must be a forerunner to a much bigger overhaul of electricity pricing structures.
“With a recent report released by the Australian Industries Energy Taskforce, of which CANEGROWERS is a member, showing that the profits of electricity networks are more than $2.6 billion higher than justified for these low risk businesses – there is room to move,” he said.
“This profit is money taken from the pockets of Australian households and businesses, including farmers growing food and fibre.
“The situation is not sustainable and it is time for governments to rein in the networks.
“The road map for action has been set out by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in its report into electricity pricing.
“We urge the Federal and Queensland governments to implement the ACCC’s recommendations in full including a voluntary write down of the value of the state’s gold-plated electricity networks.”