Economic, Education, Jobs and Skills Committee: community energy projects (5)

CRISP (Mildura) — I rise to speak on the report entitled Inquiry into Community Energy Projects, dated September 2017. Everyone is worried about their power bills, and they have growing concerns around blackouts. The two are interrelated, and both were raised in evidence heard during our inquiry. Talking about power bills, they are rising and it is causing real hardship. The recent announcement by the government with the retailers only really affects a small number of consumers who had not taken advantage of those on-time discounts.

We need, though, when looking at what this means for householders, to understand the break-up of energy use in a home. Surprisingly, appliances are 24 per cent of your energy use, water heating is 23 per cent, heating and cooling is 20 per cent, refrigeration is 12 per cent, lighting is 11 per cent, cooking is 5 per cent and stand-by power is 5 per cent. The two big changes in recent times are the amount being used by appliances — we really love our widgets, it appears — and also the rise in stand-by power.

I think what people do need to consider when they are purchasing replacement appliances is the energy efficiency rating on those appliances. That is extremely important. Similarly with lighting, LED is the new generation in lighting, but remembering lighting is only 11 per cent of a household's use, it can make a small difference. We have got of course more price rises coming in January. Energy efficiency really is the low-hanging fruit, but it is a gradual fix.

There are concerns about blackouts. Blackouts are, to many people, inconvenient, annoying, frustrating and sometimes costly. There are several other non-parliamentary descriptors for when we have a blackout that we are not able to use. In the fresh fruit industry this can be disastrous because it can affect the quality, it can mean loss of shelf life and it can even result in complete loss of the fruit. Particularly after all the costs of producing that fruit, by the time you have it where it is at risk to a blackout — that is, it is in a cool room — you have spent your money growing it, picking it and packing it and you would probably have already had discussions with the customer.

I was at a meeting in Robinvale recently where stand-by diesel generation is in fact being installed by some of the large table grape growers in that area. In some instances they have been able to actually get a discount from their insurance companies on spoilage, which has helped offset the cost of that diesel generation. However, it is a new area for many of those growers because they have never before had to factor in the possible loss of their income due to a power failure.

In Australia we are a high-quality, high-cost producer supplying distant markets who are prepared to pay for our produce. The cold chain just simply has to be perfect, and that is from the moment it is picked and taken to the pack house to when it is put in a container and sent overseas. Every step of that way, energy security is absolutely vital. Although diesel generation is expensive, it is being actively considered by fruit growers as an unfortunate and yet necessary expense. Again, that is complicating that value chain that I talked about as being high quality, high cost. If you have to have diesel generation to protect your crop in the cool room, then you have added another cost to that chain in a competitive market, and those markets are distant. If you do have your fruit in any way damaged in that cold chain and it does not meet the quality standards, our reputation will be damaged. Australia and Victoria must have an energy system that meets our needs at a cost that everyone can afford. Not to do so affects our competitiveness and puts our standard of living at risk.


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