Electricity distributor Powercor is proposing to invest $8.7 million to upgrade regional power infrastructure in dairy farm-intensive communities to support future economic growth.
Under the proposal, Powercor would upgrade the current single phase electricity network to three phase power in Tyrendarra, Strathdownie, Cape Bridgewater and Gorae West.
With the value of the dairy industry in 2016-17 estimated at $3.6 billion and Victoria accounting for 64 per cent of milk production in Australia, the upgrade is expected to deliver millions of dollars in benefits to these communities.
The proposal results from extensive community consultation to support the development of Powercor’s five year investment and pricing plan for the 2021-2026 period. The plan is due to be submitted for approval by the Australian Energy Regulator in January 2020.
Powercor’s General Manager, Electricity Networks Steven Neave said the upgrade would increase capacity on the network providing dairy farms the ability to expand their operations and regional communities with greater economic options.
“Our single phase network provides a low cost option to supply small loads spread over large areas, however dairy farmers are telling us they need infrastructure that can support greater demand and their future growth,” Mr Neave said
“Powercor is focused on delivering reliable, safe and affordable power and this proposed upgrade would deliver a stronger network for dairy farmers in Victoria’s western region.”
Powercor has been working with the United Dairy farmers of Victoria, Great South Coast Food and Fibre Council and Dairy Australia to understand how an upgraded network could strengthen their future, and has consulted more 4,500 Powercor customers since 2017 as it prepares its revenue proposal.
Farmers have told Powercor the upgrades would support farmers to increase milk production, reduce their cost of production, increase confidence in the farming sector and assist farming operations stay in business.
“There’s been strong support for us to invest in upgrading regional infrastructure,” Mr Neave said.
The areas identified for the proposed upgrade are:
The business case supporting the upgrade in these selected areas broadens the benefits usually taken into account by the investment framework to include the economic impact of regional business.
If the proposal is approved, the upgrades would occur between 2021 and 2026.
As part of its consideration of the proposal, the Australian Energy Regulator will release the Powercor submission for public comment during 2020.