Small and large businesses in the Border and North East region of our state are increasingly worried about future energy security, thereby casting a looming shadow over the employment prospects of our local population.
All businesses, regardless of the numbers they have on their payroll, deserve the opportunity to grow and, more importantly, employ extra staff.
An increasing number of small businesses are finding energy prices skyrocketing, with increases of more than 50 per cent in energy costs compared to only 100 weeks ago fast becoming the norm.
If this trend continues, our small businesses will pull up stumps, as we watch our opportunities and jobs take the next flight to India and China.
The recent closure of Hazelwood highlights the current plight of our local businesses. If the job losses weren’t enough, Victoria’s base load supply was cut by up to 20 per cent the moment Hazelwood was shut down.
I can attest from personal experience as a small business operator, the absolute frustration with brown outs becoming part of a daily operational plan.
Our current energy supply situation stifles growth and limits capacity to employ people, let alone grow as a company and compete at a local and global level.
We simply cannot sit on our hands and wait for this problem to solve itself while regional businesses have their backs to the wall – sometimes paying double what they were two years ago for their energy needs.
The recent events in South Australia also highlight the lack of energy security renewables are able to achieve, with that state constantly plunged into darkness, costing businesses many thousands of dollars in lost production and vital health services compromised.
Turning our backs on traditional methods of energy production is not the answer.
A sensible mix of all forms of energy, be it coal, gas, hydro and renewable is required to keep our local manufacturing sector alive and providing jobs.
The announcement of the expansion of the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme has bought some assurance but the completion of the project is still several years away.
The scheme, owned by the NSW, Victorian and federal governments, will increase its current 4000 megawatt output to 6000MW and involves doubling the size of the scheme, building 27 kilometres of tunnel and new power stations, creating jobs along the way.
Locally, the expansion of Lake Buffalo as a separate dam close to the upper pondage limits of the current dam to provide hydroelectric generation between the two is essential and very easy to achieve and should be seriously considered.
The location of the Lake Buffalo dam is ideal, with the ability to connect to the Dederang-Melbourne transmission line, thereby easing the burden on local industry and assisting with filling the gap that the closure of Hazlewood has created.
“Big Buffalo” has been mooted for many years, with many arguments made for and against its expansion.
With pumped hydro power cheaper than battery storage and a sufficient water supply, both state and federal governments should be encouraged to build “Big Buffalo” for hydro energy production to ensure our local manufacturers can compete and more importantly, provide jobs to those of us in the North East.