Farmers seek out renewable energy options

Farmers wanting to make the switch to renewables as an energy source say they are facing too many hurdles to achieve their goals.

Dozens of producers who have tried to increase their renewable energy footprint will address the National Renewables in Agriculture Conference in Albury on Thursday.

Victorian mixed crop farmer Steven Hobbs said his attempts to produce biofuel out of mustard seed oil were put to a stop when the taxation costs became prohibitive.

The farmer from Kaniva in western Victoria produced biofuel between 1999 and 2005 as he tried to reduce his carbon footprint.

But he told AAP it wasn’t viable for a small-scale producer like himself because he was required to meet the same excise and regulatory obligations as big fuel companies such as shell and BP.

“It became uneconomical to meet the testing requirements for the volumes of fuel I was producing … you have to have a certain level of production capacity to cover the compliance costs,” Mr Hobbs said.

He said the system doesn’t accommodate for farmers producing biofuels.

“There is no mechanism to put a value on the fact that you are using a carbon-neutral fuel, whereas if you burn a fossil fuel, like diesel or petrol, you’re actually creating or releasing stored carbon.”

The mixed grain farmer is one of dozens of speakers who will tackle how Australian producers can increase their renewable energy footprint.

“As a farmer you have the capacity to grow your own energy to be used on your farm, which can give you energy security, and other benefits to go with it, including carbon neutrality,” Mr Hobbs said.

Conference organiser Karin Stark says farmers face many hurdles when wanting to make the switch to renewables.

“There are still some barriers to farmers using renewables, such as a really high upfront capital cost, some tech just isn’t there as well,” Ms Stark told AAP.

“Those early adopters (of renewable energy) need to be educating others so they don’t make the same mistakes and industries know where to focus their attention.”

CEO of farmers for climate action, Fiona Davis, said an increasing number of producers were turning to alternative energy sources.

“We are seeing more and more farmers look to renewables on farm as a way to keep costs down in the face of the electricity crisis,” Ms Davis told AAP.

She said renewables needed to be more “accessible” to those farmers trying to reduce their carbon footprint.


Liv Casben
(Australian Associated Press)


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