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Farmers seek cooperation on power sharing

THE Victorian Farmers' Federation has urged people to adhere to power restrictions to avoid unnecessary shutdowns in the farming industry.

VFF policy director Clay Manners yesterday urged people in city centres to observe the power restrictions. "It's important restrictions are complied with or our members go short," he said.

Mr Manners said the VFF and United Dairyfarmers of Victoria had received a large number of complaints from farmers who were caught short by Thursday's blackouts, including a number of calls from south-west farmers.

He said there were reports of many farmers who had been unable to pump drinking water for cows or complete milking tasks.

"The implications for the agricultural industry are not well understood by people in the city," Mr Manners said. "We are very concerned about the impact on dairy farmers and vegetable farmers, particularly in terms of cold storage."

He said the VFF had approached the power companies to give preference of electricity to regional farmers. "We asked the power companies to try and give preference to farmers, particularly dairy areas at milking time," Mr Manners said.

United Dairy Farmers district council number two president Frank Ryan said yesterday his Panmure dairy farm had not been affected by the power shortages but added that farmers were "on tenterhooks".

He said the biggest concern for dairy farmers during blackouts was that cows could not get fresh water and milking would be halted.

Mr Ryan said Powercor had been reliable and "very good on a whole", with previous power shortages dealt with quickly. He said there was not much farmers could do about the current power situation. "It's just another burden added on to us."
. . . (Report: REBECCA TROTT)



Tabled as general interest post. The power crisis touches everyone differently, but rural Australia is copping it every which way.

Regards from OZ

-- Pieter (, February 05, 2000


Blackouts cause havoc in western region

MORE than 23,000 Powercor customers across south-west Victoria yesterday were hit by a string of power cuts which crippled parts of the state.

Powercor has warned that compulsory blackouts could continue today to help ease the load on the state's electricity generators.

Victoria's electricity distributors were ordered to begin load shedding at 1pm, with Powercor forced to blacken out parts of Hamilton, Portland, Penshurst, Warrnambool, Terang, Camperdown, Woolsthorpe, Port Campbell and Koroit.

The power problems have been blamed on a spate of hot weather, an ongoing industrial dispute at the Yallourn power station east of Melbourne and disruptions to other generators.

The state's single largest user of electricity, Portland's aluminium smelter, was one of the first in the south-west to lose its power supply.

Most other major industries in the region were spared from the power cuts, which lasted for more than two hours in Hamilton, Penshurst and Warrnambool.

The power problems were labelled a disgrace by the Member for Warrnambool John Vogels. He said the Government had known for some time about the union dispute at the Yallourn power station, which supplies 20 per cent of the state's electricity.

Mr Vogels, a Scotts Creek dairy farmer, said the timing of the cuts, which occurred between 2pm and 5.45pm, couldn't have been worse for some parts of the region.

"They should have been able to do something before this," he said. "I think it's ridiculous. It's gone off here (at Port Campbell, 50km south-east of Warrnambool) in the middle of milking time.

"It's not good enough. It's going to cost millions of dollars. Once you start turning power off on industry its devastating."

Small businesses hit by the power cuts in the region claim to have lost thousands of dollars from the blackouts and have demanded compensation.

But Powercor spokeswoman Mary Tait said the company had been given little notice of the cuts and it was not the distributor's fault customers had not been given a proper warning.

"We didn't have much choice because the load shedding was declared on a statewide basis," she said. "The supply is tight. We had the (hot) weather and reduced generating capacity with the Yallourn energy plant disruptions."

Some residential areas were hit by blackouts but industries such as Murray Goulburn, the Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory, Midfield Meat, Bonlac, Clarke's Pies and Nestle were not affected.

Ms Tait said if the warm weather continued, she expected load shedding to be re-introduced today. "I think it would be fair to say we could be facing this again. I would encourage customers to be prepared," she said.

David Thornton, of Penshurst's Thornton engineering, said the power problems had cost his business about $5000.

He said he had been forced to send home his workforce of about 30 because his business could not operate without power and a compensation claim was on the cards. "We got no warning, nothing. It's going to cost us bloody heaps, probably about $4000 to $5000," Mr Thornton said.

The electricity cuts affected almost 13,000 Powercor customers in the Hamilton district.

Ritchie Wallace, of Bushman Poly Products, said he had lost thousands of dollars when power was cut at Terang soon after 5pm. He said his businesses specialised in making plastic water tanks and production had ceased during the blackouts.

"I've lost about $5000. As soon as it went off the damage was done. Our tanks only need to be out of commission for five minutes and we've lost them," he said. "Now they have to be manually pulled apart out of the oven, aborted and started again. I can't express how I feel, only to say that I'm extremely ... off."

Portland smelter employee communications officer Paul Hurmans said the smelter was happy to help ease the load on the electricity supply. But he said his company would lose money from stagnant production during the blackouts. "We just have to manage them the best we can," he said.

Power cuts affected 2690 customers in Portland, 910 at Koroit, 927 at Cobden, more than 3000 in Warrnambool, 1060 around Camperdown and 1100 at Terang.


General information. Please note how little it took to wreck havoc to a business. Take care America.

Regards from Down Under

-- Pieter (, February 05, 2000.

Pieter, our true moment of challenge will probably come this summer too. Summer is when power systems need to be free of maintenance difficulties and running full bore. The way things are going up here for fuel, we may be seeing everything from lower grade crude to contaminated crude being delivered to fossil plants soon. Also, we have nukes SRAM on a regular basis since January 1. That is not a catastrophe in itself, but it does place an additional burden on fossil plants. If you guys had one nuke go down for a day or two at this stage it might be catastrophic.

Well, again, I'd just move to God's Country (Tassie) and get it over with. Perth and those other hell holes are no places for human beings any way.

-- paul leblanc (, February 05, 2000.

--thanks for the orts from OZ Pieter. It seems that ybe some of these dasiry farmers would now wake up to the fact that they are in an incredible position by nature of their business to have very reliable supplies of alternative energy, mainly in methane production, using the liquid slurry and containment sysytem. The large dairy I worked on in the 70's was basically only one step away from having eveything they needed in place, but, back then any notion of that was too radical for that farmers ears. The potential electrical generational potential, not to mention heating, lighting and refrigeration that could be produced by actively using the huge quantities of manure produced in a concentrated area is very large and real, there are now extant numerous huge facilities doing this, with untold hundreds of thousands of smaller operations around the globe. Business evolution, smart farmers will get hip, the ones that don't will have to continue to make a precarious living dependent on the "reliabilit" of centralized power. there is another potential benefit from using and producing methane gas, and that is the resultant liquid slurry, having been chemically changed by the actions of the anerobic slurry, has a potential for more availasble nitrogen use to plants on a ratio of better than 5-6 to 1, over "normal" open air aerobic digestion, i.e. they usually just re spread the manure on the fields raw. An average dairy farm is literaly throwing away many many thousands a year in lost energy, along with many more thousands in superior fertilizer, plus being at the mercy of centralized power and the vagaries of chemical pricing, tied to the petroleum markets. In other words, they are "paying" the electric companies and the fertilizer and spray companies to remain inefficient! They pay for that "privelege"! And to be dependent on them! Sweet deal for ElectricCo and ChemCo. This information is freely available-ever where but the industry association periodicals who's main sponsors are these same companies. Now, because lack of forsite and effort and because of not using the resources currently avaialable in alternative enrgy and agriculture, those farmers who have been doing it the "old way" which is touted as "the new scientific technological way" by these huge monopolies are suffering, and crying crocodile tears. Well, the information is out there, all they have to do is look eyond where they have been looking. If there weren't large successful examples, in fact there are examples of this in any size farm you care to name, I wouldn't make those statements. Just takes being smart and doing it, is the bottom line. Sure, some would fail, but the smart ones won't, most likely. Every farm and situation is unique, but there are enough similarities to give a smart farmer enough clues to go ahead and design and implement their own "plan". Applies to the US and Canada particulary well, too, because of the closer, larger markets. Diversification is a more practical farming method if you are going to be less dependent. I would suggest a primary crop, but not just one crop, that's too risky, and why so many farmers fail. They-the monoculturisdts, will argue that this isn't so, that you need to "specialize" because fo equipment, geography, etc, but if that was true, we would have steadily growing numbers of successful family farms, instead the losses are in the thousands every year, maybe tens of thousands or more, just in this country. If the trands continue, we'll wind up with half a dozen "farms"-if you could call them that-and farmers will be just "factory"workers, that's it.

-- zog (, February 05, 2000.

I bet alot of those farmers could use a solar powered well pump. Need not be fancy to keep the cattle waterers filled. Don't even need storage batteries, or pressure pump.

It's an unfortunate situation all around.

-- Bill (, February 05, 2000.

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