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2022 update and policy focus for 2023

A brief update on the Network’s policy focus over the last few months of 2022, and a glimpse of our policy priorities for 2023

As we know the transition to renewable energy in Australia is happening at “lightning speed”, with new policy, legislative and project announcements on an almost daily basis.

The pace and scale of the transition underscores the need for the Network, and for ensuring that First Nations have a genuine seat at the table.

A snapshot of policy activities in 2022

We’ve set out below a snapshot of some of just some of our activities since the incredible success of the Network’s symposium in late July, which sparked so many valuable conversations about the critical role of First Nations in the renewable energy transition. There’s also been a huge range of events, conferences, webinars and stakeholder events at which the Network has presented over the past several months!

A First Nations Clean Energy Strategy

On 12 August 2022, Australian Energy Ministers committed to the co-design of a First Nations Clean Energy Strategy (Strategy) as part of the National Energy Transformation Partnership. This Strategy is about ensuring First Nations Australians shape and drive the clean energy transformation. 

A First Nations-focused policy approach like the Strategy was an election commitment sought by the Network prior to the 2022 Federal Election and it is pleasing to see the commitment by Energy Ministers to the development of the Strategy. As a core member of the Strategy’s co-design team, the Network is now focused on ensuring the Strategy can deliver meaningful and beneficial outcomes for First Nations communities.   

The Strategy will be a significant activity for the Network in 2023 and beyond, and its development will be informed by consultations, discussions and advice received from First Nations communities across Australia.

Launch of the First Nations Clean Energy Network’s Best Practice Principles and Clean Energy Negotiations Guide

Almost 600 stakeholders from across community, industry and government groups registered for our webinar and launch event on 30 November 2022 of the Network’s Best Practice Principles and Clean Energy Negotiations Guides.

We’ve been greatly encouraged by the interest in these resources and we look forward to working closely with our friends at the Clean Energy Council to develop a detailed industry implementation guide for the Principles, and to tracking and reporting on industry’s compliance with the Principles.

Both resources are available on our website, as is a recording of the webinar.

Advocacy work – designing systems based on respect and genuine partnership with First Nations

The transition to renewable energy presents Australia with an opportunity to engage in genuine partnership with First Nations through recognising, supporting and prioritising First Nations self-determination, cultural and economic outcomes.

With jurisdictions exploring new or amending existing tenure arrangements for large-scale renewable energy infrastructure developments, the First Nations Clean Energy Network is concerned that approaches in some jurisdictions have the potential to render as invisible the rights, interests and responsibilities that First Nations Australians have in Country (including in Sea Country) and/or to ignore the unique opportunity presented to design a system for renewable energy infrastructure and projects in genuine partnership with First Nations.

We have accordingly been closely monitoring the following actions (including by making submissions):

  • the rollout of policy arrangements, including compensation and regulatory schemes for electricity transmission infrastructure, including social licence discussions
  • the development of policy and regulatory arrangements for renewable energy zones
  • the declaration of Bass Strait off Gippsland as an offshore wind zone and the treatment of rights, interests and responsibilities in Sea Country in the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Act 2021
  • the proposed amendments to the Land Administration Act 1997 (WA) to create ‘diversification leases’ as a proposed new form of non-exclusive leasehold tenure in WA
  • the development of the proposed Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Act in SA.

A just transition for First Nations

Clean energy will help us address the worsening impacts of climate change, and with many First Nations communities on the frontline of these worsening impacts through more extreme temperatures and climatic events, access to and the benefits from renewable energy (where consent is granted)  must be shared equally.

As policy frameworks, rules for renewable energy zones and projects and workforce planning reports and efforts are developed with haste across Australia, the Network is elevating the need for a fair and just transition to renewable energy that recognises rights of self-determination, of Free, Prior and Informed Consent, and supports First Nations communities on our own terms and in a manner appropriate to our local circumstances.

On these points, and to identify First Nations jobs and service delivery opportunities we have made submissions to the:

- Inquiry into the National Energy Transition Authority Bill 2022

- Inquiry into Australia’s transition to a green energy superpower

- Inquiry into Northern Australia Workforce Development.

We have also continued to work with partners on community-led projects in locations in Northern Australia that highlight policy barriers for communities in accessing renewable energy and to demonstrate how renewable energy can support improved energy security (and health, cultural, economic and wellbeing) outcomes for community members.

Areas of policy focus for 2023

In 2023, our policy work will be focused on four key themes:

  1. Energy security (pre-payment, social housing, energy efficiency, energy affordability)
  2. Rights (FPIC, development rights, cultural heritage, finance sector)
  3. Building power, capacity and knowledge (resources, workshops, renewable energy education, skills)
  4. Benefits and participation (jobs, business, services and supply to the renewable energy industry)

In support of these key themes, in 2023, we will embark on key projects and develop further resources, holding targeted events on emerging issues and supporting the development of power, capacity and knowledge in First Nations communities through workshops and briefings. Additionally, we will work with community to recommend reforms to Energy Ministers through the the development of First Nations Clean Energy Strategy.

Sign up as a member of the First Nations Clean Energy Network

With the transition to renewable energy occurring at such a pace we will need an all in effort to ensure that First Nations communities shape and share in the benefits.

We look forward to continuing to work with you to achieve this, and we encourage you to sign up as a member or supporter of the Network if you haven’t already (and to encourage your friends and organisations to as well!). 

A huge shout out to the amazing Steering group and team who have helped drive and implement the vision, and to all of you for your continued support.