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In Australia, even some people with jobs are struggling to pay bills and put food on the table

Posted By Jo Nova On October 16, 2017 @ 8:59 pm In Global Warming | Comments Disabled

The Foodbank press release: Financial stress pushing millions of Australians into food insecurity

One in six or, 15% of the Australian population, apparently has experienced “uncertainty” around food in the last 12 months. For some, that’s only one episode in a year but still, in a first world country which is a major food exporter, it’s not a sign of wealth and good times. If the survey is to be believed, fully 9% of Australians are experiencing a food shortage every month or even more often. Surprisingly, half of those experiencing food uncertainty have jobs –  working serfs. Foodbank blames it on living costs — like rent and power bills.

A nation in decline: A ten percent increase in people seeking food relief across the nation

One thing is sure “bill shock” is hurting people, and it’s getting worse:

Foodbank provides food for over 652,000 people a month, however, the front-line charities report that demand for food relief has increased by 10% in the last year and they are forced to turn away 65,000 people every month due to lack of food.

How much does renewable energy contribute? Hard to say — all the factors are confounded and feedbacks flow like spaghetti. Adding unreliable energy adds hidden costs in managing wild  swings in supply, and lack of spinning inertia. We have to have back up storage that we didn’t need before, so add batteries, battery subsidies, hydro storage, and also the inefficiencies for coal generators — which are cheapest and most efficient at constant supply. Then, add the cost of electricity into the cost of all products, so supermarket bills go up. The intermittent generators make us more dependent on gas, and that extra demand pushes up the price of gas too. Higher costs of living mean higher wage claims. Then the extra prices of everything (electricity, food, salaries) force companies out of business or offshore. Because it’s energy we are messing with, the flow-on implications touch everything.

The 10% increase in people seeking food relief applied across all Australian states. But South Australia started from a higher baseline. The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) data shows that the proportion of residential electricity and gas customers on hardship programs in South Australia is twice as high as other states.

But I spoke to a well connected, influential South Australian last week and he tells me people there love renewables — they think they are cheap. We need to tally up the hidden costs.

This graph shows the total electricity generation capacity in each state and it’s breakdown by generation type. Remember, those grey bars are the capacity of “wind power” but the generation from wind sources is only one third or thereabouts of the total “capacity”.

All the states below are connected to the one NEM electrical grid. SA has more renewables than the other states, but this is electricity-sans-borders to some extent. Pain and problems in one state can flow into the grid. Though according to foodbank, the number seeking help has also gone up by the same amount in WA which is not connected to the NEM. A messy problem. The only thing we know for sure is that when we had hardly any renewables, we had cheaper electricity.

Electricity by generation source, Australian states, AER, 2017. Graph.

Electricity by generation source, Australian states, AER, 2017. Graph. (I don’t think rooftop solar gets counted at all here). Solar probably means only large solar projects, which make almost nothing — See the dark blue bar in NSW.

For completeness: those unemployment statistics:

Unemployment, States of Australia, November 2016.

The end of the mining boom in WA increased the unemployment rate and may also explain the increase in hardship cases and unpaid bills.

In South Australia the Advertiser picked up the issue. Read more from Eric Worrall at WattsUp and Scott of the Pacific.

MORE than 102,000 South Australians seek help from food charity Foodbank every month, as parents skip meals for days on end so children can eat and utility bills can be paid, astonishing figures show.

Foodbank SA chief executive Greg Pattinson said the high number of those needing assistance was staggering, but not surprising, because more and more SA families were being forced to make the heartbreaking decision to either “heat or eat”.

“We’ve heard it from so many people; the power bills come in and they have to decide: ‘Do we feed the kids today or do we not?’” he said.

– Adelaide Now. (Paywalled)

The Foodbank 2017 report (PDF)

As as aside — one Foodbank recipient, Steve in Melbourne, wondering why the media is talking about Trump instead of about hungry Australians:

I’ve worked voluntarily for the Uniting Church and The Salvos so I’ve got a lot of food parcels from them and obviously I want to put back in as well. There’s more on our news about Donald Trump and what he’s doing in America than there is about hungry people in Australia. How is that even in the hemisphere of right? That just doesn’t make sense.”

 The media are part of the problem. The deplorables are the ones going hungry.

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