Dairy farms targeted in federal grant scheme to boost energy efficiency

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The Australian dairy farming industry is set for an energy efficiency overhaul, with grants of up to $20,000 opened up to businesses in the sector by the federal Coalition government, starting this week.

The grants, part of the Morrison government’s Energy Efficient Communities Program, will be available for upgrades to equipment to reduce energy consumption, investment in monitoring systems to better manage energy use, and for energy audits.

The Coalition’s minister for agriculture, David Littleproud, said dairy farming businesses feeling a “price squeeze from an imbalanced market” could use the money to cut energy costs and keep more “money in their pockets.”

The minister said that energy use in milk cooling, milk harvesting, and hot water production was one of the highest overheads in the industry, costing farmers as high as $12,800 per 100 cows each year.

“These grants will provide financial support at a time when so many in the dairy industry are struggling,” he said.

“Supporting the long-term sustainability of our dairy farmers is critical to the sustainability of regional Australia and our food security.”

Federal minister for energy and emissions reduction, Angus Taylor, said the timing of the program was important for a sector facing multiple challenges, including from an increasingly unforgiving climate.

“Farmers have long been at the forefront of innovation to reduce their cost of doing business and their emissions output, but energy costs remain high for many in our dairy sector, especially where farmers are doing it tough on the back of bushfires and Covid-19”, he said.

“The government’s support will help dairy farmers in their efforts to better manage their energy use while also continuing to play a role in reducing global emissions.”

The Energy Efficient Communities Program was announced as part of the government’s Climate Solutions Package in the 2019 federal budget. A total of $10 million has been put aside for the dairy round.

The federal government’s focus on energy efficiency in farming comes in stark contrast to its approach to the construction sector, where efficiency was completely ignored in the recent stimulus package for new home building and renovations, despite the huge gains on consumer costs and emissions reductions that stand to be made.

According to recent research failing to increase minimum national thermal and energy efficiency performance requirements for new homes from 2019 to 2022 will result in an estimated A$1.1 billion (to 2050) in avoidable household energy bills and an extra 3 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

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