Farmers' plea for power surge to key dairy regions heard

Farmers' plea for power surge to key dairy regions heard

Dairy
Calls heard: Shadow Minister for Energy and Resources David Southwick, South West Coast MP Roma Britnell, Tyrendarra dairy farmer and local UDV president Bruce Knowles, and Koroit dairy farmer and local UDV policy councillor Oonagh Kilpatrick pictured in 2016 calling for an upgrade to three phase power on the local electricity grid. Picture: Rob Gunstone

Calls heard: Shadow Minister for Energy and Resources David Southwick, South West Coast MP Roma Britnell, Tyrendarra dairy farmer and local UDV president Bruce Knowles, and Koroit dairy farmer and local UDV policy councillor Oonagh Kilpatrick pictured in 2016 calling for an upgrade to three phase power on the local electricity grid. Picture: Rob Gunstone

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'This is excellent news', says one dairy leader.

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Pleas from dairy farmers wanting an upgrade of the power infrastructure between Tyrendarra and Portland have been heard, with electricity distributor Powercor announcing a proposed $8.7 million investment to upgrading regional power infrastructure.

If approved by the Australian Energy Regulator, Powercor would upgrade the current single phase electricity network to three phase power in Tyrendarra, Strathdownie, Cape Bridgewater and Gorae West.

It comes after years of campaigning by farmers following a report that found the lack of three phase power in the area between Tyrendarra and Portland was stopping dairy farms from expanding.

READ MORE:Three-phase power campaign amps up

South-west dairy farmer, United Dairy Victoria Wannon branch president and member of the Australian Dairy Farmers National Council Bruce Knowles welcomed the news.

He has been heading the power upgrade campaign for over six years.

"It has been a long campaign, this is excellent news," he said.

"This is a pilot project and we're hoping it will be a good start to getting it (three phase power) to other areas.

"The upgrades are urgently needed, it's not only a matter of getting power to businesses but dealing with a lot of safety issues. It will have a dramatic effect on peoples' lives, it's a win-win situation."

He said that while it was a considerable investment, the state government needs to step in to help farmers and businesses transition to the new power upgrade.

"The government needs to step in and work with Powercor in making sure this job is done properly and efficiently," he said.

Powercor's General Manager, Electricity Networks Steven Neave said the upgrade would increase capacity on the network providing dairy farms the ability to expand their operations and regional communities with greater economic options.

"Our single phase network provides a low cost option to supply small loads spread over large areas, however dairy farmers are telling us they need infrastructure that can support greater demand and their future growth," Mr Neave said

"Powercor is focused on delivering reliable, safe and affordable power and this proposed upgrade would deliver a stronger network for dairy farmers in Victoria's western region."

Powercor said it consulted more 4,500 customers since 2017 as it prepared its revenue proposal.

Farmers have told Powercor the upgrades would support farmers to increase milk production, reduce their cost of production, increase confidence in the farming sector and assist farming operations stay in business.

South-west dairy farmer,policy councillor for UDV Wannon and campaigner Oonagh Kilpatrick said they want to see the upgrades done sooner rather than later.

"From a dairying perspective it's fantastic but the economic benefit is for the whole region," she said.

"I think every business should have access to three phase, Australia is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and it begs the question as to why it has infrastructure that classes as third world in many places.

"A business cannot rely on single phase power."

The areas identified for the proposed upgrade are:

  • Tyrendarra - a 37.4 kilometre single phase line between Yambuk and Narrawong supplying 497 customers, many of which are dairy farms and commercial businesses;
  • Strathdownie - a 28.5 kilometre line supplying 220 single phase and SWER customers;
  • Cape Bridgewater - a 20 kilometre single phase line supplying 285 single phase and SWER customers; and
  • Gorae West - a feeder in Gorae West (near Portland) supplying 128 single phase and SWER customers.

If the proposal is approved, the upgrades would take place between 2021 and 2026.

South West Coast MP Roma Britnell said access to three phase power in the Tyrendarra area has been a continual issue she has been working on in the four years since being elected.

"This is a positive step forward and I am sure the Australian Energy Regulator will see the potential this project has to increase economic activity in the south-west and will approve it," she said.

"There has been a few obstacles to get to this point but I'm determined not to let it fall over at the last hurdle.

"The Tyrendarra region is a three-phase power blackspot, but is home to prime agricultural country. Having reliable and efficient three-phase power, replacing the antiquated single-phase system that services that area now will help businesses grow, employ more people and boost the state economy.

"This is a good news story on all fronts - I'll now advocate to the regulator to ensure three-phase power is delivered so farmers and businesses in the Tyrendarra area can expand their contributions to the regional and state economy."

As part of its consideration of the proposal, the Australian Energy Regulator will release the Powercor submission for public comment during 2020.

Ms Kilpatrick said those supporting the approval should submit their feedback on talkingelectricity.com.au.

"Not only is this for the four regions but Warrnambool, Portland and Heywood will benefit too," she said.

"For this region farmers re-inject $730 million back into the community according to latest Dairy Australia figures, and that's excluding processors.

"The flow-on effect is considerable, it's not just about the dairy industry but every business in south-west Victoria."

The story Farmers' plea for power surge to key dairy regions heard first appeared on The Standard.

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