Australia has gone from having a competitive advantage in energy costs to being one of the most expensive countries in the world. The price of electricity has increased about 10 times the rate of inflation over the past 10 years for Queensland farmers. Additionally, many regional customers face further bill increases when they are forced on to standard business demand-based tariffs on June 30, 2021. With unsustainable electricity costs eroding the viability and productivity of many agriculture businesses, alternative solutions are needed so Queensland farmers can continue producing world class food, fibre and foliage.

To that end, the Queensland Farmers’ Federation has partnered with Cotton Australia, Reaqua and Constructive Energy to deliver more secure, affordable and reliable energy with microgrids after in securing funding through the federal government’s Regional and Remote Communities Reliability Fund. The project will establish and analyse four demonstration virtual microgrids in NSW and Queensland to test their suitability in different circumstances and models. In addition, it will include community consultation and workshops, data collection and modelling to understand costs and benefits and provide guidance to industry and government.

Microgrids offer an exciting new model for farms to buy and sell power differently as well as better utilisation of on-site generation and local electricity networks. They may also have the added benefit of reducing grid losses as energy will be used more locally leading to lower investment costs in infrastructure while increasing reliability. These benefits all have the potential to reduce energy costs and will be tested by the project. Ultimately, farmers could benefit from more stable network energy flows, increased network utilisation, more cost-effective uptake of distributed energy systems and reduced costs to provide a community-based source of local, affordable, low carbon energy.

The way energy is generated and consumed is rapidly changing, with customer-owned generation and storage expected to make up almost half of Australia’s entire electricity capacity by 2050. This project places our project partners and the agriculture sector at the forefront of energy generation innovation and better able to overcome ongoing reliability and affordability issues.