Farms are major users of energy. Pumps, tractors, cool storage, harvesting, maintaining crops and livestock facilities all require large amounts of energy.
While wages, exchange rates and commodity prices are set by external factors, direct actions by farmers can help reduce energy expenses as a proportion of the overall farm budget.
Opportunities exist for Australian farmers to better control their energy costs by:
- improving practices and systems
- changing or modifying equipment
- switching to alternative, less expensive energy sources
- purchasing energy more strategically.
Energy is one of the fastest growing costs for cotton growers. Electricity and diesel accounts for up to 50% of grower’s total input costs meaning significant opportunities to improve profitability.
The Cotton Research and Development Corporation (CRDC) has developed energy-efficiency information for cotton growing businesses to implement and reduce operating costs.
The following case studies and resources show how cotton businesses are reducing energy use and costs.
Goondiwindi – Pump evaluation. Information on testing individual pumping set-ups to identify the optimum operating point to achieve maximum efficiency.
Baan Baa – Diesel to gas conversion. Demonstrates how a Baan Baa, New South Wales, cotton farmer is reducing his energy costs by converting his diesel engines to a hybrid of diesel and gas.
Comet – Integrating alternative energy solutions. A study into the energy use of a Queensland irrigator, including analysis on the farm's centre-pivot, river pump and grain-drying facilities.
- energy assessment and management
- reducing farm energy costs
- energy use in cotton
- pumping efficiency
- pumps in the Australian cotton industry
- pump cavitation
- monitoring tractor fuel use
- tractor setup
See the CRDC Cotton Info website for more information on energy management in the cotton industry.
Energy costs account for a significant proportion of dairy farm overheads, in particular milk cooling, milk harvesting and hot water production. Improving energy efficiency in these areas can enhance sustainability and reduce costs.
Applications are now open for grants to help dairy farming businesses lower their energy bills and reduce emissions through the Energy Efficient Communities Program. Applications for the dairy round closed on 24 August 2020. Guidelines are available at business.gov.au.
The Australian Government has also funded the development of energy-efficiency information through Dairy Australia for the country’s 1400 dairy farms.
The Dairy Climate Toolkit includes fact sheets on topics such as saving energy on dairy farms, renewable energy, irrigation, building with energy efficiency and recycling.
For example, Saving energy on dairy farms – resource booklet describes energy-efficiency improvements that are low cost with short payback periods, which can be implemented in most dairies across Australia.
Energy use in Australian orchards accounts for a large proportion of production costs and is a major financial burden for fruit businesses. For these businesses, energy is their second largest cost after labour.
The Australian Government funded energy audits for 30 orchards and packing sheds in 10 Australian growing regions which led to development of energy-efficiency information. The audits showed that, on average, fruit businesses could save $16,300 per year by making cost effective upgrades with a payback period of 6 years or less.
Apple and Pear Australia Limited (APAL) has developed a range of case studies to illustrate how fruit businesses have saved money by becoming more energy efficient, including:
New South Wales
APAL has also developed a collection of informative energy-efficiency material, including factsheets and a presentation, to help you cut energy use and save money in all areas of your business.
Improved irrigation efficiency can increase grower returns at reduced costs.
Burdekin Bowen Integrated Floodplain Management Advisory Committee has developed the Energy Efficiency Gains for Australian Irrigators website. The site enables irrigators and community organisations to make informed decisions about energy efficiency.
Case studies include:
- pump efficiency
- electricity tariffs
- underground pipes
- irrigation efficiency.
The site also includes:
- factsheets on energy-efficiency gains for Australian irrigators, irrigation energy saving ideas, electricity bills and meter readings, irrigation tariff options and information, and improving irrigation efficiency
- a tariff calculator for irrigators
- an engagement manual
- videos on the case studies, workshops, and topics such as energy savings opportunities and solar options for irrigators
- slides from presentations on topics such as:
- retail tariffs
- updates on electricity prices for irrigators
- energy in pumping
- water and energy assessment tools
- improving surface irrigation to reduce costs
- clean and clever energy
- pump audits
- bore maintenance
- solar and irrigation opportunities.
Refrigeration and tank storage account for up to 70% of energy consumption in a winery. By reducing energy use in refrigeration and other high-consumption areas, wineries can greatly improve energy efficiency and save money.
The South Australian Wine Industry Association has developed case studies on how wineries have improved their energy efficiency, as well the Winery Energy Saver Toolkit. This contains information to help identify, prioritise and action energy-efficiency improvements for wine manufacturing.
Business Energy Advice Program. Australian Government. Free one-on-one consultations with a business expert, providing tailored advice on how to cut energy costs for small businesses in the agriculture industry.
On-Farm Energy Assessments. Government of Victoria. Free assessments to analyse on-farm energy use (electricity, gas and diesel) and identify opportunities to make energy savings, improve output volumes per energy unit, and convert to renewable energy sources.
Energy Savers. Queensland Farmers’ Federation. Free independent electricity audits to assist agricultural businesses identify energy savings and productivity improvements with rebates for farmers to implement audit recommendations.
Farms and business - case studies and guides Government of Victoria
Agricultural case studies (Sustainability Victoria) Government of Victoria
Energy management NSW Government
Renewables - For Farmers NSW Government
Case studies AgInnovators
FarmHub National Farmers’ Federation