Treasurer of Grafton Hockey Association Rod Gould in front of the light towers at the hockey complex.
Treasurer of Grafton Hockey Association Rod Gould in front of the light towers at the hockey complex.

Hockey club may be solar powered

A CLARENCE Valley sporting organisation is looking at radical methods to combat continuing hikes in electricity costs that threaten the viability of the sport in coming years.

Grafton Hockey Association has calculated its electricity costs have risen 37 per cent since 2008 and fears that could rise up to 57 per cent in the next three years.

With an electricity bill that totals between $18,000 and $20,000 a year, the association is investigating how it can install solar panels on the roof of the dormitory building so that electricity can be sold back to the grid to defray costs.

Association treasurer Ray Gould said he had conducted a study of the costs of electricity since 2008 and calculated that the price had risen 37 per cent.

“In 2008 the Government was attempting to sell off the power companies and they were forbidden to give users discounts,” he said.

“Without the discount we received from Country Energy our electricity costs rose 12 per cent.

“In 2009 the costs rose another 25 per cent making a 37 per cent rise overall.”

Mr Gould is worried that electricity prices could rise even further.

“I can remember reading a government document recently where they said electricity prices could rise by 57 per cent in the next two or three years,” he said.

He said the hockey association had taken measures to cut its electricity usage.

“We’ve been diligent in using less power,” he said.

“We’ve done things like offer teams discounted ground hire for training in the daytime and running games tightly to schedule so the lights are on for as short a time as possible.”

Mr Gould said the association was running out of ways to cut its costs and was now looking at the viability of generating power through solar panels on the association’s dormitory building at Fisher Park.

“It would cost between $60,000 and $80,000 to put solar panels on the building,” he said.

“I know the Government provides grants for private users to put solar panels on their houses. We’re looking to see if there are similar grants for sporting organisations.”

Mr Gould said the power costs issues would be discussed at its next meeting in March.

Country Energy’s media manager Mike Hely said there was no risk that electricity prices will continue to rise, but pointed out there was a lot more to pricing than just the retail cost of electricity.

“Electricity prices are determined by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) and the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART). The AER regulates transmission and distribution networks, while IPART regulates retail tariffs and charges,” he said.

“Under the AER determination of 2009-2014, Country Energy has embarked on a $4 billion, five-year investment program to meet growing population and energy demands, renew ageing assets across our footprint area (95 per cent of the State), continue to meet safety requirements and deliver safe and reliable essential energy services into the future.

“The price increases will also fund the recruitment of an additional 300 apprentices over this period.

“Locally, our investment program includes construction of a new high-voltage powerline between Koolkhan and Maclean to improve reliability and security of supply; installation of a new high-voltage cable under the Clarence River between Yamba and Iluka; and ongoing maintenance and improvements to the electricity network around Grafton and the Clarence Valley.

“Late last year IPART produced a draft document foreshadowing regulated retail electricity price increases of up to 62 per cent over the next three years. They asked for public submissions, which closed on February 4, and have indicated they will release a final report and determination in mid March.

“Any new regulated retail price increase will take effect from July 1. IPART’s foreshadowed increases were based on the Federal Government introducing an emissions trading scheme, which at this stage hasn’t occurred.

“Country Energy recognises that electricity price increases can cause hardship and is committed to minimising the impact of any price rise on customers. We offer payment advice, customer support and energy efficiency advice, including an energy efficiency advice hotline (1800 3633 749).”

The news hasn’t been all bad for local sport, with the Clarence River Cricket Association (CRCA) reporting that charges for its night cricket competition have been slashed since Clarence Valley Council installed a new lighting system at McKittrick Park.

CRCA spokesperson Jeff Hackett said the cricketers now pay $20 for an hour token, compared with the $45 it cost them for a half-hour token for the old lights.

Mr Hackett said the new lights were not only better on the coffers of the CRCA but also provided better playing conditions.

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