Sugar industry holds green energy promise
IT might be a pipe dream for now but one day Douglas Shire might be the “greenest and cleanest” shire in the nation.
The use of renewable fuels to power Port Douglas and Mossman and much of the rest of the shire was a recurrent idea in the inaugural Douglas Shire Council’s business forum on Thursday.
Keynote speaker Prof Ross Garnaut visited the area recently at the invitation of sugar industry figure Bill PhillipsTurner.
Prof Garnaut, who wrote a major paper on climate change, made serious mention of the renewable energy potential for the shire in his address.
He said Australia was extremely well placed. “Per person, our renewable energy sources are very rich.”
The sugar industry gives the opportunity to use waste as a renewable energy source, a closed system that doesn’t pollute.
He said turning away from fossil fuels could provide cheaper energy, as well as jobs. And there were other sources such as solar and wind to add to bio-fuels in the alternative energy mix.
As a panellist at the forum Bill Phillips-Turner said “with the right economic drivers and investment, expanded cogeneration at the Mossman Mill could result in a much greater proportion of the town’s power being generated by the mill for much greater period of time.
“And then by working in concert with a range of other alternative, renewable energy generation such as PVS [solar panels], wind, battery storage etc we could actually see the Douglas Shire go 100 per cent green in energy. The state has been pushing both biofuels and bio industry strategies. Our sugar industry could – and absolutely should – be part of that innovation for the future.”
Mr Phillips-Turner later told the that Douglas Shire was uniquely placed to take advantage of renewable fuels.
It is bordered by two World Heritage areas whose pristine qualities are the basis of an enormous tourism industry. It is virtually the end of the line of existing conventional power transmission, which means a local power supply is likely to be more reliable and stable. And it has the sugar industry.
“Sugar is a sexy industry,” Mr Phillips-Turner said. “Many people don’t appreciate from the environmental point of view what the sugar industry can do – and does do. You’ve always got to look at other opportunities for sugar and you’ve got all these other biproducts – molasses, ethanol, bio plastics, all these things.
“It has to stack up from a business point of view but I think the shire is in a unique position.”
One of the positive benefits of a “green shire” is its appeal to eco-minded tourists. The green credentials of a destination are often a critical factor in people deciding where they will holiday.