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14 May, 2021

Time to turn on the lights

FUNDING has been allocated toward the construction of a renewable energy microgrid in the Daintree community to shore up the supply of reliable and affordable electricity for locals and visitors.

By Peter McCullagh

The Federal Government announced in this week’s budget they will allocate up to $19.3 million to build a microgrid to help keep the lights on for less in the remote Daintree community, north of the Daintree River.

Currently grid supply terminates at the Daintree River, requiring residents of north of the river to use a combination of solar, battery or the ecologically damaging diesel generators.

Diesel supply to businesses and households powered by generators is via a bulk road tanker crossing the Daintree River using the ferry before entering the world heritage area to resupply users.

The solar powered hydrogen microgrid will replace high-cost diesel generation the community currently relies on.

Douglas Shire Mayor Michael Kerr has been campaigning for many years to bring sustainable and affordable electricity to the Daintree.

“I absolutely welcome the Federal Government’s $19.3 commitment to build a microgrid in the Daintree Rainforest. 

“The proposed microgrid will be positive for our environment as energy users move away from older polluting technologies.

We will see a cutting-edge system that eliminates our community’s reliance on diesel generators and genuinely boosts our environmental credentials in the heart of our World Heritage-listed area,” he said.

The Daintree represents a delicate balance between natural beauty and economic development. This proposal will further establish the credentials of the region as a leader in sustainable and ecological development.

“Businesses will become more competitive through the access to reliable energy at an affordable price, while residents will enjoy the benefits of a reliable energy source. 

“Douglas Shire Council supports the Federal Government’s project and our staff worked closely with key project stakeholders through the feasibility study phase. 

“Our draft Economic Development Strategy lists exploring clean energy markets and technologies, such as the hydrogen energy market, as a key part to innovating our region to become a stronger economy, Kerr stated.

Federal Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch said this is an incredibly positive announcement towards delivering more affordable and reliable power for the Daintree community.

“This project is the first of its kind, not only in Australia, but in the world – a fully renewable baseload-power microgrid.

“It will remove the need to burn diesel in the Daintree, allowing residents to have access to a cleaner, more affordable, more reliable source of energy.

“This project is a game-changer for the Daintree community and delivers on my firm commitment to residents to deliver a solution to their power needs.”

The project will demonstrate innovative microgrid technologies, including hydrogen, helping to accelerate the uptake of microgrids in other regional and remote areas.

The Federal Government’s support for the Daintree microgrid builds on the successful $50.4 million Regional and Remote Communities Reliability Fund.

The Douglas Shire Sustainability Group (DSSG) were approached regarding their views on this announcement.

DSSG supports the provision of reliable environmentally and economically appropriate power on the Daintree coast. We do not support the installation of a single, one size fits all power supply.

One line in a pre-election Federal Budget is not a commitment to reliable, environmentally and economically appropriate power.

“We do not have any details on the technology to be employed or the timeframe or the total funding commitment” said Didge McDonald, President of DSSG.

“We don’t know if this is a fossil fuelled system, we don’t know how it will be distributed, we don’t know who will own the system, or pay for the power generated - will it connect to the national grid?”

The 2019 Daintree Electricity Supply Study by the Queensland Government examined 6 options for power on the Daintree Coast and concluded that the ‘one big micro grid’ proposal would be more expensive for households, have greater environmental impact and would take at least 6 years to build.

“The Daintree Rainforest is part of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area” said Mr McDonald 

“It is the world’s second-most irreplaceable natural world heritage area - these ancient rainforests are globally significant as they represent the largest remaining area of lowland rainforest in Australia’s Wet Tropics - why does the Federal Government want to promote its demise?”

This looks like a typical big splash headline to help sure up a candidate in the upcoming Federal election.

The DSSG were asked if they supported the replacement of fossil-fuel powered electricity sources with renewable energy sources, they declined to comment, instead referring Cairns Local News to their website, however a search for fossil fuel or diesel failed to produce related any documents.

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