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Why a green energy project has Daintree residents up in arms

Statewide

The simmering debate over the development of the world heritage Daintree has erupted over plans to develop green energy for the 800 residents and businesses.

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Federal LNP MP Warren Entsch is pushing the plan to develop a hydrogen micro grid in the area to bring mains-type electricity to residents and businesses which have been living on solar or diesel generators for decades.

This time around the project has the backing of the new Douglas Council, which has horrified environmentalists who want to protect the rainforest from development and are also fighting a council investigation into the plan for a bridge across the Daintree River to replace a ferry.

But Entsch is unrepentant. He gained a $1 million grant from the Government for a business case for the project. That will be finished in June.

“This is a terrific project. Hydrogen is one of the energy fuels of the future,” he said.

“We can bring these households into the 21st century.

“We could develop this across the country. I want to take it to 15 islands in the Torres Strait.”

The plan is to develop a solar array that would provide the electricity to create hydrogen that could fuel generators. Batteries would also be part of the project.

It would replace what Entsch claims is the burning of 6 million litres a year of diesel in the park. Other estimates are half that.

The scheme would fit within the Morrison Government’s technology-first plans to deal with climate change but would run into trouble with the Labor Government in Queensland which has previously been steadfastly against anything to do with development in the world heritage area.

“They would struggle to vilify this,” Entsch said.

The Douglas Shire Sustainability Group said the council’s backing of the grid and its investigation into the bridge proposal “threaten some of our greatest assets and how we market them with no attempt at seeking expert advice or asking the community if they are happy with such fundamental policy shifts”.

“No one expected them to attack some of the shire’s iconic assets with such speed. On their own each of these issues is substantial, collectively they signal a fundamental shift in direction from pro-environment/business/tourism/agriculture to pro-development,” the group said.

“Overall we are appalled that changes with huge environmental and economic impact would be put to the second meeting of a new council with no engagement from the community or any kind of expert advice.”

It has about 7000 signatures on a petition.

Douglas Shire Mayor Michael Kerr said the council support for the micro grid sent an important signal to ratepayers and the energy market.

“The Federal Government solution will provide an essential service which businesses and residents have a right to,” he said.

“The proposed micro grid will be positive for the environment as energy users move away from older polluting technologies.

“Businesses will also become more competitive through the access to reliable energy at an affordable price.”

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