National Farmers’ Federation President Fiona Simson said further investment in new energy technologies, as announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison today, was positive news for farmers.
“Prime Minister Morrison with Energy Minister, Angus Taylor, has today announced a significant package of measures that includes clear recognition of the role of agriculture in the energy sector,” Ms Simson said.
The key measure is a further $1.62 billion to sure up underlying funding for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) for the next decade. The NFF has been calling for further funding for ARENA for some time.
“This funding will allow a range of initiatives already in train to become serious policy instruments, like the development of a bioenergy roadmap and support for new technologies to measure soil carbon.
“Now that solar and wind energy generation are well established, we welcome the expanded remit of both ARENA and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to support technologies like bioenergy and hydrogen,” Ms Simson said.
The NFF’s support for an economy-wide aspiration of net zero emissions by 2050 has a number of caveats including ‘that there are identifiable and economically viable pathways to net neutrality, including impacts from inputs such as energy’ .
“When I addressed the National Press Club during July my key proposal was for an additional 20 Regional Deals.
“Inherent in the greater focus on regions was to harness opportunities for regional energy hubs that might include innovations such as micro-grids, renewable energy generation and use of food waste.
Microgrids are tipped as the future of regional and rural electricity, and agriculture is in the process of electrifying on-farm processes.
“This investment is a good first-step on the microgrids agenda, however given the absolute importance of microgrids, we hope that there will be greater focus and investment in the future.”
Ms Simson said the holy grail of agriculture’s engagement in emissions reduction was better information.
“There are great opportunities to be found if we can better understand particularly soils carbon characteristics and how to measure it.
“The NFF and its members remain focussed on better technologies and better outcomes from the Emissions Reduction Fund for agriculture.
“The NFF has supported the King Review recommendations, especially as they relate to improved methodologies: $24.6 million, a timeframe cut in half (24 to 12 months) and industry involvement in new Emissions Reductions Fund methodology development are all positive.
“We are closely engaged in consultation through Professor Finkel on the Technology Roadmap.
“We are just delighted to see all of the strands of this hard road of policy work starting to be drawn together to support real investment in much needed outcome for agriculture.”
Ms Simson noted a change of course did not come without its challenges, and care needed to be taken when creating new renewable transmission infrastructure, to guard against, adverse outcomes in the interaction with farmland.
“The NFF will continue to seek fair and innovative outcomes in this process. We will also continue to closely engage to ensure that renewables are sensibly integrated into agriculture and not designed to replace it.
Ms Simson said the NFF and its membership eagerly awaited the finalisation of the first Low Emissions Technology Statement which is expected to be the one ring that binds a range of initiatives to provide a concise plan for the pathway to a lower emission economy.
“Working together in a measured and strategic manner is the best way to help the agricultural sector make an economically viable transition to a lower emissions economy and to play its role in helping the economy aspire to net zero emissions by 2050,” Ms Simson said.
The NFF has a goal for Australia’s farm energy source to be 50% renewable by 2030.
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