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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 even bankruptcy.
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.

This detailed electricity cost study on the Ergon website puts the cost of generating your own electricity versus grid supply at SIX TIMES THE COST!!

energy poverty is a form of poverty

Nelson Mandela is right, all it takes is some action by our politicians to lift the Daintree residents out of energy poverty.

 

mission statement

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 is:

G20 speech

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 Daintree residents?

hypocrisy

hypocrisy

Click statement above to read larger version

 

 

The Queensland Productivity Commssion is aware of it:

Economic performance
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 of energy.

More statements:

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”

 

energy development and poverty reduction

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 welfare.
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 this 10%.

 

world bank

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.''

worldbank

 

milennium project

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 2015:

- 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 expand services.
(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 and unreliable.
(In the Daintree people have to get by with generators, which is very expensive and unreliable as they break down from time to time).

- 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 activities.
(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 say:

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.

international energy agency

Commitments of Australia as member of The International Energy Agency:

Australia is one of the 28 members of the International Energy 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 viable)
- 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 power)

energy poverty

Worldenergyoutlook.org also recognizes the importance of access to electricity

world energy outlook

energy

Many more international organisations write on energy poverty:

energy poverty

energy poverty

Even the church knows that affordable energy is important:

energy poverty

 

energy poverty

 

energy poverty

“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 services.”

“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 diesel generators.

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 here.

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:

pollution from discarding old generators

May 2012; another two dead generators that have to be dumped and the purchase of a new generator increasing the level of energy poverty.

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;

Links:

The Contribution of Human Rights to Universal Energy Access

Access to electricity is a human right

Electric Energy Access in European Law: A Human Right?

Remote area power generation in Australia

ERGON's 33 remote area power stations