Farmers find ideal new year’s resolution for Government: Act now on renewables review

15 January 2024

The National Farmers’ Federation is calling on the Federal Government to start 2024 off strong and get cracking on a review report into community engagement on renewables projects.

Energy Infrastructure Commissioner Andrew Dyer was charged with putting a lens over community engagement practices for renewable energy infrastructure projects, and in December, he handed his findings to the Federal Government.

NFF President David Jochinke said the review was a step in the right direction and presents a real opportunity for the Government to dispel the uncertainty hanging over the heads of farmers.

“Farmers are often the last to find out about these projects to be rolled out across their land.

“This isn’t a NIMBY situation. Farmers support the transition to renewable energy, but they don’t want to see these projects being prioritised over growing food and fibre.

“Often there are far better solutions, like taking projects along fencelines or in unproductive paddocks but the energy companies rarely stop to listen to these smart solutions.”

Farmer case study

There’s 1.5 kilometres of overhead transmission lines proposed across Victorian farmer Katherine Myers’ farm.

“The issue of transmission is huge. The Federal Government is planning 10,000 kms of new transmission lines in Australia over the next 10 to 20 years – our farm is just 1.5kms,” she said.

“That’s thousands of additional farmers or landholders out there who are going to be affected by this. It goes right from Northern Queensland to the southern tips of Tasmania.”

There are really strict regulations on farming around high voltage electricity and for Katherine, the overhead transmission lines will prevent her family from growing potatoes on that land.

Katherine believes a safer, more efficient and sustainable solution to the proposed transmission lines is to install them underground to build a grid “for the next 100 years, not for the past century”.

“It’s marginally more expensive upfront, but it is enormously more efficient. The minute you put electricity into a high voltage above ground option, you lose approximately 30% of that generated power.”

Mr Jochinke said Katherine’s story was one he had heard from countless farmers across Australia, which is why finding a better way for energy projects was a key pillar in the NFF’s Keep Farmers Farming campaign.

“It’s the right thing to do to consult with landholders in the early stages of these projects that directly impact their livelihoods and food and fibre production.

“The Government has the review outcomes in their hands so we urge them to get moving on it to make things fairer for farmers. We want to work with government on this important issue and the findings of this report are a good place to start that collaboration.

“Our message to Canberra is simple. If you love Aussie grown, help us protect Aussie farms and keep farmers farming.”