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Energy cost savings too good to ignore

Jo FulwoodCountryman

Biofuel energy plants could be a lifeline for struggling regional economies, providing employment opportunities and a sustainable plantation cropping industry, while also saving millions of dollars in energy costs.

Macco Feeds Australia manager Phil Beresford said small communities, particularly in the Wheatbelt, could reap significant benefits through private investment into biofuel energy generators.

Nine months ago, Mr Beresford spent $750,000 on a biofuel boiler imported from Italy, and said other companies in the regions should also be investigating the benefit of biofuel for their businesses.

The boiler, at the Macco Feeds Williams manufacturing plant, is the first of its kind to be installed in Australia.

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Currently, the boiler uses wood that would normally go to landfill, but he said he had just received the first load of oil-mallee wood chips.

The boiler can run on any type of fuel that can burn, and produces stream to process the stock feed, prior to pelletising.

"We are just starting with a bit of oil mallee," Mr Beresford said.

"The first lot came through last week.

"It will probably be two or three months before this dries out enough to use."

Mr Beresford estimated he saved more than $500,000 each year in gas costs.

He said while the private sector could now apply for assistance grants through the Federal Government's $1.2 billion Clean Technology Program, he had been given no government assistance to switch to biofuel.

"Two days after the boiler arrived, the Federal Government announced these energy grants," Mr Beresford said.

"We've taken it all the chin. We've paid the whole lot all the way through and haven't had any government assistance.

"Our unit will be paid for by the time there are other units operating in any other area in Australia."

The Macco manager said he believed biofuel plants would be the way of the future, particularly for regional Australia.

"In six to 12 months time, you will see handful of them springing up," he said.

"Once people get tuned into the idea of what they are all about, and the cost savings, they will take off."

But Mr Beresford said while small biofuel plants were functioning all over Europe, Australia was yet to realise the potential of the industry.

He said putting biofuel energy back into the grid was still a problem, and Western Power was not interested in small outputs.

"To take small amounts of power, anything under five mega watts, they would have to upgrade their power lines," he said.

"It is extremely difficult to negotiate with them and feed into the current network system."

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