Sustainability group raises Daintree microgrid concerns

DAINTREE DEVELOPMENT

Howard Salkow

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Daintree Renewable Energy Inc., who have often been at odds with the Douglas Shire Sustainability Group (DSSG), said they would be happy to be meet with them to discuss the latest developments regarding power north of the Daintree.

Although attempts have been made to discuss one of the most pressing issues in the region, they have never materialised.

It is therefore no surprise that the two groups are in disagreement after the Federal Government identified the region as a site for a stand-alone, environmentally-friendly power system, bringing it a step closer to powering the Daintree via a renewable-energy micro grid.

In a statement, the DSSG said it remained deeply concerned that a revised development proposal pushing for reticulated power north of the Daintree, would result in long term damage to the world heritage environment and to tourism.

DSSG President, Didge McDonald, said the new push for reticulated power ignores cheaper, lower impact, greener options and instead seems driven by a desire to encourage development.


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Yet, there has been strong support for the micro grids from the Shire’s leading tourism organisation.

Tourism Port Douglas Daintree (TPDD), in a letter to Russell O'Doherty, President, Daintree Renewable Energy Inc., TPDD’s Executive Officer, Tara Bennett, wrote: “We believe this would, not only, provide infinite environmental benefits, but also provide the opportunity for the Douglas region to become a leader in sustainable communities.”

In his response to the DSSG statement, Mr O’Doherty said the community and the Federal Government have looked at all options and found this to be the greenest and cleanest.

“It truly will protect the Daintree environment and the Barrier Reef. Tourism can only be enhanced by this project as it will now become a genuine Eco Tourist destination, which the Douglas Shire would be proud of.”

The DSSG said that most residents and many of the businesses north of the Daintree have invested in stand-alone solar/generator combinations and would much prefer support to improve their solar capacity and modernise their systems.

“For a third of the price, and with no grid connection costs to residents or ongoing bills, every residential solar based system could be upgraded to a state-of-the-art system.

“Commercial establishments could also be supported to install solar power systems, coupled with assistance in governing energy use. That approach would ensure the Daintree Coast keeps its clean and green image,” said Mr McDonald.

However, Mr O’Doherty said all the larger businesses run entirely on large diesel generators.

“The smaller businesses, for example B&Bs, have solar as well as a back-up diesel generator and have given the Daintree Power Committee letters of support for a better form of power than what they currently have.

“The only connection cost to residents is from the front boundary to their meter box, which is the same for all Queensland residents,” he said.

The question of who does and who does not want power in the Daintree was also highlighted in the DSSG statement when they said: “The new proposal assumes most residents want reticulated power, but no-one has asked them.”

Mr O’Doherty was quick to point out that numerous well-attended meetings and forums have been held over an extended period with overwhelming support for power in the Daintree.

The DSSG also said there is no evidence to support the claim that the new proposal is either “renewable” or “green”.

“The new proposal is totally green as it does not use any fossil fuels as it is a hydrogen cell charged by residents’ roof top solar and has large scale battery storage.

“The second stage would have a large scale solar farm to complement the communities’ input to which they will be able to receive credits just like everyone else does in Australia,” said Mr O’Doherty.

The DSSG also raised additional concerns about the government’s proposal:

  • Community engagement by the proponents has been highly selective, focusing only on those supporting grid reticulation
  • There is no evidence to support the claim of “…millions of litres of diesel being consumed….”
  • Individual micro grids for the Cow Bay and Cape Tribulation commercial centres should be considered
  • The cost to households of grid connection and the upgrading of electrical wiring, likely to be in the thousands of dollars, has been ignored.


The DSSG, meanwhile, has consistently argued that because the Daintree Coast is rated as among the world’s most precious ecosystems, it deserves investment in protection, restoration and presentation, not in infrastructure that will contribute to its demise.

Founded in 2005, the Douglas Shire Sustainability Group (DSSG) is an environmental advocacy group.

Its members include Douglas Shire Mayor Julia Leu, Councillor David Carey, his partner Roisin Allen, who is a committee member, Didge McDonald, who is the president and former shire mayor Mike Berwick.


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