Blackout Bowen embraces candle culture

by JOHN MIKKELSEN – I RECENTLY wrote an article titled Hello Darkness My Old Friend, which started out describing a romantic candle-lit dinner with my wife, courtesy of an unscheduled power blackout. 

I pointed out we were fortunate enough to have been able to prepare dinner on a gas stove top and that it was possibly a foretaste of the future. 

One thing seems certain; with darker times ahead, the Energy Minister will likely live up to his nickname, Blackout Bowen.
John Mikkelsen
Freelance writer & author

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) had warned of the likelihood of rolling blackouts with the return of an El Niño weather pattern bringing a hot, dry summer with more wind-less days.

But that was just the start of another untold story as we soon discovered the blackout and power surge had damaged the electric controls of a security gate on our property.


A repair technician provided a quote for $1400 confirming the damage, which he said was obviously linked to the blackout.

No big deal, our insurance should cover that … except the excess meant a payout would represent only about a quarter of the repair cost.

The gate is considered part of the building; if it had been included under the contents cover, the settlement would have been more like three-quarters of the cost.

But, unfortunately, it would be hard to dispute the logic that it’s not actually inside the house even if it’s not actually attached to the building!

C’est la vie, try another approach in a bid to offset the surging costs of living and soaring power prices under Federal Energy Minister Chris Bowen, backed by a compliant Queensland Government.

Both are making a mad rush to embrace so-called renewables at the expense of much cheaper coal and gas.

So I contacted the State Government-owned Energex, which is responsible for power distribution throughout South East Queensland.

They initially confirmed they would consider claims for damages with the following proviso: “We don’t accept responsibility for damage or losses that occur as a result of events that are outside our control, including:

  • The effect of wildlife or vegetation contacting powerlines or apparatus;
  • Natural disasters, storms or lightning related damage and their effect;
  • Power interruptions where the cause can’t be reliably determined;
  • Acts by others, such as vehicles contacting power poles or vandalism;
  • Planned power interruptions as part of our normal work;
  • Instruction by a controlling authority to interrupt power.

That sounded fair enough, so I filled in a claim form providing all the relevant details which seemed to comply with the above rules. Or so I thought.

A couple of weeks later I received a reply which Yes Minister’s Sir Humphrey Appleby would be proud to have penned.

It opened with an admission that an investigation into my claim had been completed, an unplanned outage had occurred at the time stated, crews had attended and carried out the necessary repairs.

Well that sounded promising … but it was all downhill from there: “As an electricity entity, Energex has a duty to build, maintain and operate the network safely.

“Energex maintains its network in line with all relevant statutory requirements, industry standards, codes of practice and with manufacturer’s recommendations for each asset type.

“Energex has an active maintenance program in place in which regular inspections are carried out on all assets. Notwithstanding that Energex network is maintained and operated in accordance with all relevant statutory requirements, industry standards and codes of practice, the decision to accept or deny liability will always be determined having regard to the facts of each claim.”

“Energex is of the view that it is not liable for any damages sustained as a result of the incident that occurred on 11/09/2023. A review of our asset maintenance records indicates that the asset in question had been inspected and maintained in line with relevant industry standards. Previous inspection had not identified any indication of poor equipment condition or risk of failure.

“Unfortunately, power outages and adverse events are unavoidable in the operation of an electricity distribution network and the mere occurrence of such an event does not automatically mean that we are liable for resulting damage.


“In this regard, we draw your attention to the terms of our standard connection contract, the Queensland Electricity Connection Manual, and our website, all of which make clear the risks of outages and adverse events when connected to our network.

“We advise customers to install protective equipment to limit potential damage from such events, but even then, we can make no assurances as to what if any protective equipment will be sufficient to protect against all such events…

“In recognition of these unavoidable risks, the distributor of electricity (Energex Corporation Limited) has a statutory immunity under section 316 of the National Energy Retail Law (Queensland), which provides: ‘A retailer or distributor, or an officer or employee of a retailer or distributor, does not incur any civil monetary liability for any partial or total failure to supply energy unless the failure is due to an act or omission done or made by the retailer or distributor or the officer or employee of the retailer or distributor, in bad faith or through negligence.’

“The incident on September 11 falls within this statutory immunity. Under these circumstances, and given we have been unable to identify any fault or negligence on behalf of Energex, unfortunately we are unable to consider reimbursement towards your costs…”

I imagine power consumers in other States would probably face similar bureaucratic hurdles that set the bar too high for mere consumers.

Energex has admitted the blackout was the result of an unexplained failure of their equipment but because they didn’t see it coming during routine checks, they are not liable for any damages.

Is there a better example of Catch 22 in action: “A paradoxical situation from which an individual cannot escape because of contradictory rules or limitations.”


The term was coined by Joseph Heller, who used it in his 1961 novel Catch-22.

Catch-22s often result from rules, regulations or procedures that an individual is subject to, but has no control over, because to fight the rule is to accept it.

Another example is a situation in which someone is in need of something that can only be had by not being in need of it.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been caught, but one thing seems certain; with darker times ahead, the Energy Minister will likely live up to his nickname, Blackout Bowen.PC

John Mikkelsen

John Mikkelsen is a former editor of three Queensland regional newspapers, columnist, freelance writer and author of the Amazon Books Memoir, Don’t Call Me Nev.
MAIN PHOTOGRAPH: Christopher Bowen. (courtesy The Monthly)

9 thoughts on “Blackout Bowen embraces candle culture

  1. Quote

    “”China just opened the new 1,800 kilometer Haoji Railway — specifically to carry coal It has 770 bridges spanning a total of 381 kilometers and 468 kilometers of tunnels. They started it in 2015.””

    1. Quote

      “Despite 151 nations signing the Paris Agreement, the UNEP has all but admitted that most of the world is not even pretending to meet their emissions promises. As is obvious in the graph below, governments of the top 20 producers of the evil coal, oil and gas are planning to dig up even more of it by 2030 than they do now. These 20 nations produce 80% of the world’s fossil fuels and somewhere out there are lots of customers. The report appears to be a scorecard to guilt-trip the 20 naughty nations into giving up warmth, food or billions of dollars in exports, but it reads like the Paris Agreement is pure charade.”

  2. What is going on in Australia is the stuff of a Monty Python show. We are slowly sinking into an energy shortage crisis due to our increasing dependence on renewable energy (RE), that RE is generated by solar panels and wind turbines, for which we totally dependent on China to manufacture.
    In Australia we contribute ~1.3% of world emissions China contributes ~36%. China produces in a few weeks what it takes us a year to produce. We are getting rid of our coal fired power station because we are told they pollute. China is opening one new coal fired power station a week, presumably so that they can provide us with all the panels and turbines that we need to close our few.

  3. What continually bothers me (amongst much else concerning Chris Bowen) is that this ratbag will retire on a very comfortable salary/superannuation benefit indeed.
    One could ignore his arrogant, dismissive, manner if he was competent, but the ignorance and stupidity is palpable, and the damage he is causing all Australia (including ultimately to our sovereign security) will cost , big time.

  4. Chris ‘Blackouts’ Bowen is an existential threat to Australians and should be treated as such! The sooner he is relegated to the backbench where he belongs, the better.

  5. Often the sales and marketing advertising for new wind and solar installations refer to how many homes the installation could power, and/or quote “Installed Capacity” meaning the theoretical supply of electricity that could be produced. But that is not sustainable or mostly not achievable, so the the average is much lower and for example the AEMO rates Capacity Factor of wind turbines at 30% to 35% of the “Nameplate Capacity” (also known as Installed Capacity) – therefore, for every 100MW of Nameplate Capacity the average is according to the AEMO 30MW to 35MW on average. This is a huge difference. Consider wind turbines needed to replace the NSW Hunter Valley Liddell Power Station (coal fired) where 4 generator units of 500MW each are installed and have a Capacity Factor of 90-95%. Difference being 24/7 against when the wind blows.

    To replace all of the remaining power stations with wind and solar, back up equipment and transmission lines would require tens of thousands of hectares of new suitable land. Nuclear energy replacement of coal fired boilers would utilise existing locations and electricity grid.

  6. I heard on the radio at midday that there is an electricity blackout in Taree NSW, Mid North Coast, and expected to be without electricity for the afternoon.

    During 2018/19 I often drove to Taree to help a friend to attend medical appointments at both the public and the private hospitals, often they were using on site generators.

    I wonder how often electrical generators in public and private sector establishments are needed?

    Many Australians are unaware that state governments have installed many diesel fuelled generators since the transition to so called renewables commenced. In SA there are huge aircraft jet turbine powering large generators installed in the old GMH vehicle manufacturing factories at Elizabeth, a suburb of Adelaide, another of many locations is for the ship building facility where the RAN Collins Class Submarines were built, installed more recently when the nuclear submarine construction project of AUKUS was announced.

    It’s gone to far, not only expensive and unreliable electricity supply but also land being taken over and environmental damage to make way for “farms” of wind turbines and solar panels, transmission lines, back up support equipment.

    Common sense approach would be to keep using our high grade black coal and brown coal (lignite) fired power stations and introduce nuclear energy to replace the coal fired boiler systems over time. Same locations and existing electricity grid utilised.

    Ignore Minister Bowen and the CSIRO misleading claims, nuclear is far less expensive today than the very old figures the CSIRO relies on to protect the political transition fairy tales. As a Senate Inquiry has been advised.

  7. Check out these Energex and Ergon outages maps. I’m not sure if the numbers relate to the last 12 months or whatever, it doesn’t seem to specify, but no wonder they appear to have contracted Yes Minister’s Sir Humphrey Appleby to write their claims policy. (They did initially encourage me to fill in a claim form by providing the necessary directions).

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