Qld, NSW invest in energy saving programs

By Dairy News

The Queensland Government has committed a further $10 million to extend the Energy Savers Plus program, in the wake of climbing power prices in the state.

The expanded Energy Savers Plus program will include an additional 200 energy audits for farmers and offer a 50 per cent co-contribution (capped at $20 000) towards the cost of implementing changes recommended through the audits.

To date 60 per cent of the 130 farms participating in the Energy Savers program have or plan to implement part of the $3 million of annual energy cost savings identified in the energy efficiency audits across different industries.

This includes 50 farms implementing energy efficiency projects and another 32 that are planning to in the future.

Queensland Farmers Federation President Stuart Armitage said that the Energy Savers Plus program has been and continues to be an important resource for Queensland farmers to identify, learn and implement energy efficiency practices and changes to their businesses.

“Farmers throughout the state will continue to benefit from the opportunity to identify energy savings as the sector grapples with the impact of electricity price increases.

“QFF is looking forward to working through the details of the expanded program with the government.

“In a public debate that is so focused on supply-side energy matters, it is pleasing to see the government recognise the importance of energy efficiency and demand management in reducing energy costs.

“Energy Savers is a useful tool to help farmers proactively dampen the impact of the massive price rises we have seen, but it does not completely solve the broader issues of electricity affordability — we have to keep working at the other areas too”, Mr Armitage said.

Farm gate power bills have doubled since 2009, according to Cameron Quin, national business director of renewables supplier, Solar Bay.

“This is four times higher than the Consumer Price Index increase during the same period,” Mr Quin said.

“NSW has seen a similar price rise and energy reliability in regional and rural areas is a constant issue, so farmers operating independently from the grid has become a real option.”

Solar Bay and NSW dairy advocacy group, Dairy Connect, announced an alliance last month designed ultimately to build solar energy technology and funding packages for dairy farmers.

Solar Bay is working with the University of Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources in undertaking R&D in generation and thermal storage solutions for dairy farmers.

Mr Quin said conventional dairy farms were likely to be able to save around 20–30 per cent on their existing energy bills using onsite renewable generation paired with storage technology.

“In robotic dairies, savings could be in the order of up to 50 per cent compared with today’s overhead costs,” he said.

“As battery storage technology develops, we’re going to be in a far more favourable renewable energy environment.

“Prominent NSW dairy producers in conventional and robotic dairying are actively investigating solar solutions and we’re assisting in that journey.”

Dairy Connect CEO Shaughn Morgan said renewables have a critical role to play in delivering lower cost energy to the dairy industry in the future.

“Obviously, in the short term, we’re going to have to source electricity from a range of providers including renewables, coal and gas,” he said.

“But the amount of investment going into research and development and the quality of the institutions conducting that R&D, give us cause for great optimism about the pathways forward.”

In Brief -Western Dairy field day

Western Dairy will hold a Spring Field Day and AGM on the Merritt family’s farm at Boyanup on November 28.

A rapid-fire morning of practical information delivered by the Western Dairy team and other experts will be followed by lunch and an inspection of the dairy, the effluent plan and calf sheds.

The program includes:

■    Pasture Variety Trials – what this means for localised pasture information

■    Dairy farm monitor program – how WA industry is really performing financially

■    Disease management and surveillance update

■    Effluent system design

■    Order your Farm Safety Kit

■    A talk from Julian Krieg on stress levels and strategies to manage them.