Power concern

January 31, 2018

Industry problem...Ten agricultural organisations have met to discuss concerns regarding power prices.

Agriculture groups are feeling overlooked in the fight to lower electricity prices, the National Irrigators Council says.

NIC was among 10 agricultural groups that met last Wednesday night to discuss the need for action on electricity prices.

The meeting of the Agricultural Industries Energy Taskforce noted some positive steps during the past 12 months, with the taskforce’s submissions and lobbying gaining recognition that the electricity crisis directly impacts food and fibre production.

NIC chief executive officer Steve Whan said the group made it clear that it believed the long-term ceiling for power prices should be 8¢/kWh for electricity and 8¢ for distribution — about a 30 per cent reduction on current prices.

‘‘As agricultural groups we sometimes feel our perspective is not given enough precedence by energy regulators and rule setters, often because we aren’t talking the language the industry insiders use,’’ Mr Whan said.

‘‘We make no apology for not talking their language because we are talking about whether Australia can produce and export food and fibre competitively, whether our farmers can afford to keep generating the jobs families and communities rely on.

‘‘We want regulators to make Australia’s national interest a much higher priority when they consider network prices and setting the rules that are supposed to generate a competitive market.’’

Mr Whan said that Australia should be a country with affordable power yet price increases were pushing some producers off the grid and onto diesel generation.

‘‘One Queensland irrigation district is in danger of shutting down completely because of the cost of pumping water,’’ he said.

‘‘The taskforce this week recommitted to its engagement with decision makers, lobbying for rule changes to benefit consumers along with encouraging direct action to help primary producers reduce their power costs.

‘‘It was a positive meeting but we still have a lot of challenges ahead.’’

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