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Energy Poverty in the Daintree
Many Daintree residents and businesses in the electricity 'black hole'
between Forest Creek Road and Cape Tribulation struggle with huge bills
to generate their own electricity, resulting in stress, hardship, loss
of quality of life, having to move away from home to work elsewhere, and
This is defined by the United Nations as ENERGY POVERTY, and it has absolutely
no place in a supposedly modern western country in the 21st century...
Read here what energy poverty is, how international organisations define
it and campaign to do something about it, or read further
down the page how Daintree residents are affected by this...
WHAT IS ENERGY POVERTY?
THE DEFINITION OF ENERGY POVERTY
( COPIED FROM WIKIPEDIA, THE WORLD'S ONLINE ENCYCLOPEDIA )
Energy Poverty is a term for a lack of access to
electricity, heat, or other forms of power.
Often referring to the situation of peoples in the developing world,
the term also implies any quality of life issues relating to this
lack of access.
Energy poverty exists when the required infrastructure is not
in place for energy delivery, most often electricity.
According to the Energy Poverty Action initiative of the World Economic
Forum, "Access to energy is fundamental to improving quality
of life and is a key imperative for economic development.
In the developing world, energy poverty is still rife. Nearly 1.6
billion people still have no access to electricity, according to
the International Energy Agency.
Domestic energy poverty refers to a situation where
a household does not have access or cannot afford to have the basic
energy or energy services to achieve day to day living requirements.
These requirements can change from country to country and region
to region. The most common needs are lighting, cooking energy, domestic
heating or cooling.
There is little information available on specific measure on the
basic energy requirement, but many countries have identified that
provision of 1 unit of electricity per day per household as a basic
energy requirement, thus it is seen that in many developing countries
the 30 units of electricity per month category is provided at a
very concessionary rate.
Until recently energy poverty definitions took only the minimum
energy quantity required in to consideration when defining energy
poverty, but a different school of thought is that not only energy
quantity but the quality and cleanliness of the energy used should
be taken in to consideration when defining energy poverty.
One such definition read as: "A person is in ‘energy
poverty’ if they do not have access to at least 120kWh electricity
per capita per year for lighting, access to most basic services
(drinking water, communication, improved health services, education
improved services and others) plus some added value to local production.
electricity cost study on the Ergon website puts the cost of generating
your own electricity versus grid supply at SIX TIMES THE COST!!
Nelson Mandela is right, all it takes is some action by
our politicians to lift the Daintree residents out of energy poverty.
The above is copied from the website of the Qld Department
of Energy and Water in 2013.
It would be great if these words could be turned in to action in the Daintree.
Ergon Energy is also aware of how important electricity
is on their website:
Tony Abbott is aware of how important electricity supply
Read it here
on the PM's website, last paragraph down the bottom.
Oops, Tony is gone already and his website too, how many politicians have
we seen come and go that do nothing for us? Lucky I take screen
shots of vital info like this.
And of course, previous Queensland Energy Minister Mark
McArdle was aware of it:
In September 2013 Minister Mark McArdle spoke to the Mayor
of the Scenic Rim Region: “Providing safe, reliable and affordable
energy and water supply is vital to meeting the basic needs of communities
and for the future development of Queensland.”
And the current Energy Minister Mark Bailey is aware of
how important affordable electricity is for Queenslanders. But what about
Click statement above to read larger version
The Queensland Productivity Commssion is aware of it:
Queensland’s electricity costs represent a major area where we can
either stimulate or suppress ongoing economic growth.
Accordingly it comes as little surprise that when CCIQ recently surveyed
more than 1100 small businesses ahead of the Queensland state election
to determine key issues electricity was at the top of the list. Of those
businesses surveyed it was identified that increasing electricity prices
is currently the most significant business issue with 65% of Queensland
businesses surveyed indicating a major or critical concern with the cost
1 March 2016: Minister for State Development and Minister
for Natural Resources and Mines The Honourable Anthony Lynham:
“We want communities in remote areas of Queensland
to have the resources they need to develop opportunities they know will
grow their economies”
Another internationally widely used
definition of Energy Poverty is detailed on Energyfordevelopment.com;
When energy expenditure is above 10% of income, then
conceivably it will begin to have an impact on general household
The idea is that when households are forced to spend as much as
10% of cash income on energy they are being deprived of other basic
goods and services necessary to sustain life.
Many Daintree residents (or businesses) would find that when they
add up their purchase, repairs, maintenance and replacement of generators,
batteries and other equipment, fuel costs, and other expenses such
as business downtime when equipment breaks down, would be well above
The World Bank did a study
in 2012 which concluded that electricity costs have a direct link
to business productivity. It said:
"Studies have shown that poor electricity supply adversely
affects the productivity of firms and the investments they make
in their productive capacity,'' it says.
"It is therefore essential for businesses to have reliable,
good-quality electricity supply.''
Some excerpts copied from UNmillenniumproject.org
that was commissioned by the UN Secretary General, and has set certain
goals that member countries (including Australia) should reach by
- Countries should adopt measures to ensure reliable
electricity supply to households, businesses, public institutions,
commercial establishments, and industry, enable payment and cost-recovery
mechanisms that will ensure the financial health of energy service
delivery entities so that they can provide reliable service and
(Australia is currently not doing anything to ensure reliable electricity
supply to Daintree households)
- In many of the poorest countries, a large fraction
of the population is unable to access modern energy services at
all, and those who do have access often pay dearly for energy services
of much lower quality—meaning that the services are erratic
(In the Daintree people have to get by with generators, which
is very expensive and unreliable as they break down from time to
- The poorest households spend a large portion of
their total income and human resources on energy because some forms
of energy are absolutely essential.
Insufficient and unreliable power limits the ability of enterprises
to expand their activities, to be competitive, or to create new
activities or jobs.
(In the Daintree residents and businesses spend a far larger
part of their income on their little it of electricity than in the
rest of Australia where people enjoy grid power)
- The 1.6 billion people worldwide who are without
access to electricity may take heart in the examples set by Tunisia,
where the electrification program expanded service from 6 percent
of the population in 1976 to 88 percent in 2001; Morocco, where
electrification rates reached 72 percent in 2004 (Morocco, Office
National de l’Electricité 2005); and China, where electrification
rates reached 97 percent in 2004, thanks to sustained political
commitment, public funding that combined domestic resources and
borrowings from the Development Banks and other sources, and effective
cost-recovery tariffs and mechanisms from users.
- At the village, town, city and national scale, lack
of reliable and affordable electricity supply can also become an
impediment to income-generating industrial, commercial, and service
(In the Daintree this certainly is an impediment, even the smallest
restaurant has a diesel bill of $1500 a week for electricity supply
and a small B&B can't even have a small bar fridge in guestrooms
or an electric toaster in the kitchen).
2012 has been declared the international
year for energy access by the United-Nations, on their website they
Energy is critical to economic development and poverty
reduction. The provision of reliable, affordable and sustainable
energy services, especially for the poorest, contributes decisively
to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Without
energy, economies cannot grow and poverty cannot be reduced.
Insufficient electricity supply affects many developing countries.
Productivity, competitiveness, employment, and economic and social
development are therefore limited.
Commitments of Australia as member
of The International Energy Agency:
Australia is one of the 28 members of the
Agency and this imposes certain legal obligations on
the Australian government to adhere to this agency's constitution,
policies and objectives.
If you read the About
the IEA page on their website you will read numerous
obligations that the Australian government is currently ignoring,
some exerpts from the IEA's document;
- Promote greenhouse gas emission abatement,
through enhanced energy efficiency and the use of cleaner fossil
fuels. Develop more energy efficient energy options. (=Install
a grid and get rid of the hundreds of individual polluting generators)
- Ensure the stable supply of energy to IEA member countries
and promote free markets to foster economic growth and eliminate
energy poverty. (=Install a grid and get rid of all
the individual generators that impose an economic burden on the
population that keeps them poor and stops businesses from being
- All economies require access to energy to develop and
grow. (=See above)
- The 28 members of the International Energy Agency seek
to create conditions in which the energy sectors of their economies
can make the fullest possible contributions to the sustainable economic
development and to the well-being of their people and of the environment.
(Yet another obligation that is being flouted, government currently
does not seem to care about well-being of its people at all)
- Decision makers should seek to minimise the adverse environmental
impacts of energy activities. (decision makers should
not be keeping legislation in place that prohibit grid power and
force people to run polluting generators).
- Improved energy efficiency can promote both environmental
protection and energy-security in a cost-effective manner.
(Government currently prefers to maintain status quo of individual
polluting generators instead of the improved efficiency of grid
Worldenergyoutlook.org also recognizes the importance of access to electricity
Many more international organisations write on energy poverty:
Even the church knows that affordable energy is important:
“Energy poverty matters for the same reason that poverty matters
– we have a duty to ensure that those less well-off then ourselves
have access to a good standard of living and equal opportunities”,
says Richard Bridle, an energy analyst with the IISD’s Global Subsidies
Initiative. “Energy plays a big role in this: from mass communications
to the refrigeration of vaccines. We don’t usually talk about how
the global economy will benefit because that isn’t the key motivation,
though economic growth will certainly benefit if we enhance health,
education, clean water, sanitation, heating, transport, cooking and communication
“A lack of infrastructure is certainly a factor in energy poverty,
says Bridle. For example, a lack of access to electricity grids can lock-in
communities to higher cost energy sources such as kerosene lighting and
If it is so important that policymakers do not cling onto renewables
as their sole saving grace, however, and reduced emissions, while important,
should be seen as secondary only to the goal of universal access.
WHAT DOES ENERGY POVERTY
MEAN FOR DAINTREE RESIDENTS?
It means that they spend so much of their income on
buying generators, buying fuel, fixing generators, fixing or replacing
other equipment such as batteries, battery chargers, inverters,
solar panels, etc. that it leaves less money for other things and
creates hardship and financial troubles, it has a detrimental impact
on the quality of their life.
It means that for lower income families in an event
such as generator or batteries dying they simply have to live in
the dark or by candle light without a fridge if they can not find
the thousands of dollars needed to replace them.
It means that businesses, especially small ones, become
commercially unviable, and some even go bankrupt.
It means that the entire community can not function
and prosper like a happy community because everyone has less income
to go around.
It means that banks are unwilling to lend mortgages,
making it hard for newcomers to buy in to the area, and for residents
who want to leave (for reasons such as old age) to sell their properties.
They are trapped in a dangerous situation, old age does not mix
well with carting fuel to generators, moving generators to the repair
shop, climbing roofs to clean solar panels, and using chainsaws
to trim trees that shade solar panels.
It means that when people want or have to leave the
area, they can not sell their property for a fair price that could
buy a comparable property elsewhere in Australia, because the lack
of grid power keeps the land prices down. They are trapped, or they
sell for a price that will not get them a similar place elsewhere.
Keeping the property and renting it out is also not a viable option,
as tenants often do not have the skills or the willingness to look
after generators and batteries, many property owners have faced
bills of up to $15000 for damage done to their power systems by
uncaring tenants, making it cheaper to have an empty house than
to rent out a house.
It means that I, author of this website, had to move
out of home to work elsewhere for several months to make money for
a new battery bank and generator when they needed replacement again.
It means that residents who had generators out of
action during wet weather with no sun had to move out of their homes
because there was no refrigeration and no lights at night, sometimes
for weeks while the generator was being repaired.
It means that elderly people, who are dependent on
equipment such as breathing apparatus, suffer extra as they have
to burn more generator fuel, or if the generator breaks down then
they are in even greater trouble.
It means that people's health is being put at risk, fridges often
go off when power runs out, and people who rely on creek water for
their house do not have sufficient electricity to treat this water
with UV lights or pumps and filters.
The Cow Bay Clinic has had to throw out thousands of dollars of
medicines when their power system failed, a waste of taxpayers money
and a risk to local public health!
One of my neighbours received his inheritance from his mother's
estate and the whole amount went straight in to a new battery bank.
And there are many more stories of hardship, too many to all list
The grid north of Mossman has occasional power failures and one
resident was furious and wrote to the newspaper that "continued
outages were destroying peoples' confidence, the quiet enjoyment
of their homes, the operation of their businesses, and their ability
to get on with their lives."
As someone who has been without power for two decades I find it
hard to feel sorry for someone who misses out on power for a couple
of hours a year.
Daintree residents would like to be treated the same as
indigenous Australians, this image and info below was copied from a study
in to remote power generation:
May 2012; another two dead generators that have to be
dumped and the purchase of a new generator increasing the level of energy
The current Queensland Government has rescinded the law that prohibits
electricity grid in the Daintree, but stubbornly maintains the discriminatory
exclusion of the Daintree from Ergon's distribution area.
This letter was in the newspaper just after cyclone Ita in April 2014;
Contribution of Human Rights to Universal Energy Access
to electricity is a human right
Energy Access in European Law: A Human Right?
area power generation in Australia
33 remote area power stations
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TO A DAINTREE HOLIDAY AND SUPPORT THE LOCAL COMMUNITY: