The Queensland Farmers’ Federation and its industry members continue to have a lot to say about unsustainable increases to electricity prices in Queensland. We have been advocating for governments to intervene in the failing status quo, and the issue will feature prominently in our sector’s state election platform.
Despite the evident structural challenges with energy affordability in Queensland, farmers are not waiting around on the promise of eventual price relief to ensure their businesses remain viable. Farmers are recognising the value in energy efficiency projects by installing and improving their on-farm systems. Farmers are embracing the recommendations and support offered through the Queensland Government funded QFF and Ergon Energy, Energy Savers Program.
Already, over 60 per cent of the 130 farms participating in the program have implemented part of the $3 million of annual energy cost savings identified in the energy efficiency audits across different industries. The level of cost savings realised is expected to rise as more farmers have time to properly consider the recommendations on their unique business situations.
The biggest uptake has been in irrigators improving pumping systems. They do not have the luxury of deciding when they pump water, as they must satisfy crop requirements, climatic conditions, water licensing and irrigation channel conditions. Growers are implementing other projects such as improving and upgrading refrigeration, lighting and installing solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. These changes have also been complemented with easy wins identified in the audits such as regular tariff reviews and changes to operational practices.
A key finding from the program has been better understanding the value of on-site energy generation to reduce costs. The audits are demonstrating potential payback periods on PV systems of 3-7 years, depending on the usage rate and the current electricity tariff.
QFF continues to work with Ergon and the state government to help farmers move ahead with projects identified in the audits by providing advice and information to reduce barriers, such as understanding the technologies and accessing financing options.
There are now 45 Energy Savers case studies, including five videos covering a range of agricultural industries throughout Queensland, on the Energy Savers website. These case studies and information have been presented at 50 events throughout the state’s agricultural regions.
One of the video case studies looks at a Burdekin cane farmer, who has been trialling trickle irrigation to significantly reduce water use in the delta soils; and is making further savings of $5000 per year by adding a variable speed drive to the trickle irrigation pump.
Another is a Clare melon farm that is saving about 10pc of their $250,000 packing shed electricity bill with a number of initiatives including replacing cold room seals, turning off inspection lines when not in use and adding variable speed evaporator fan control. Significant irrigation efficiencies have also been identified by a $9500 laser-alignment study of all 15 farm pumps, with annual savings of $5000 from the first pump realigned.
A survey of the program participants found that the program has raised awareness of energy management in over 90pc of respondents.
Coming into the election, QFF will be asking the returning or incoming government to extend the successful Energy Savers Program and look at other opportunities to assist farmers with an integrated approach to energy and water efficiency initiatives.
QFF energy efficiency case studies, events, technologies and financing information are online: http://qff.org.au/EnergySavers.