Why electricity prices matter to your morning coffee
Food and energy prices are dominating the news, and rightfully so, when the price of a head of lettuce reaches $12 and we endure an unusually cold winter. Australians are justifiedly concerned about the rising cost of living. Numerous individuals are unaware of the inextricable connection between food and energy costs.
Food needs energy. Significant amounts of electricity were used to irrigate feed for cows, heat and pressurize water, power machinery for milking, and refrigerate the milk in your coffee. All of this energy is consumed prior to the milk leaving the farm.
This discussion must include our transition to renewable energy, which will occur almost exclusively in rural communities and on agricultural lands.
This transition requires astronomical investments in new generation and thousands of kilometers of new transmission lines across agricultural land. These projects must have a positive impact on agriculture, as opposed to posing new obstacles and problems for farmers. Importantly, they should not hinder food production.
This is not about putting ice in your morning coffee; rather, it is about recognizing that now is the ideal time to develop a long-term strategy for these two kitchen table issues. Without it, Australian households will endure years of unnecessary cost-of-living pressures.
Focusing on energy solutions for the bush is the solution to affordable electricity for food production, and Dr. Helen Haines’ 2020 Local Power Plan has already provided a blueprint for achieving this. The plan focuses on promoting small- and community-scale renewable energy generation in order to provide affordable and reliable energy to local communities and businesses, including farmers.
The plan mandates that the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency shift their misguided focus from innovation to funding regional and rural projects, noting that there is no technological barrier to renewables, but rather social and economic constraints.
Farmers learn from one another, and funding farm projects that demonstrate the practical and economic case for on-farm renewables would contribute significantly more to agriculture’s transition to net-zero than focusing on the next big thing in renewable technologies.