Dairy farmers push for power solution

Dairy farmers push for power solution

Victorian dairy farmers are pushing the Victorian Government to come up with a solution to the State’s escalating energy crisis in a bid to keep the multi-billion dollar dairy industry sustainable.

The United Dairyfarmers of Victoria has approached the Victorian State Government with a plan to upgrade rural electricity networks after the power grid was criticised for failing to meet the needs of farmers whose businesses are becoming more sophisticated with the use of new technology.

Among the dairy group’s key requests are:

  • A pilot program to upgrade the power grid in the Tyrendarra region from Single Wire Earth Return (SWER) and single phase lines to three-phase power;
  • An industry-focused, technical energy operators guide for dairy farmers, electricians and electrical contractors; and
  • A program supporting farmers to upgrade their power supply infrastructure and increase on-farm energy efficiency

“What we’re seeing is a number of dairy farmers – particularly in the Western district – become increasingly frustrated with their current power supply,” UDV President Adam Jenkins said.

“There have been price hikes across the region but the level of service they’re getting isn’t enough to run equipment to milk their cows and run other appliances at the same time; it’s a clumsy, outdated system and our dairy farmers are paying the price in lost productivity and opportunities.

“Our research uncovered a startling number of dairy operators are constrained by the SWER infrastructure, even though they aren’t competing with other dairy operations for power along the network.

“It’s simply a matter of SWER lines not having the capacity to withstand the typical electricity load required to run your average dairy operation.”

The push comes on the back of the Victorian State Government’s proposal to build a 20MW battery in regional Victoria to improve grid reliability.

Mr Jenkins said while a battery storage facility was an intriguing idea, he was wary of any suggestion renewable sources were capable of managing the power needs of dairy farmers.

“Farmers need energy day and night to run their operations and renewable sources can’t yet sustain that level of base load power, which is what we saw with the power outage in South Australia when the whole state went into darkness,” he said.

“The dairy industry is a major cash cow for Victoria, so rather than risk that reputation by building a giant battery, the Government should consider our program as a way to yield valuable outcomes for both farmers and the local economy.”