The renewable energy industry is linked, more than most, to First Nations people through that critical interface so intrinsic to Indigenous culture – the land. The transition to clean energy will depend on working collaboratively and constructively with Traditional Owners of the lands on which many renewable projects will be built.
This is an extract from an article by Kane Thornton, CEO of the Clean Energy Council:
The clean energy industry supported an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Voice to Parliament, and a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum.
Those of us who have worked on climate change policy for the past few decades have experienced the challenges of serious reform.
As a white Australian I feel shame that we have failed our Indigenous friends. But as a leader in the clean energy industry, I have responsibility and a voice to do something about it. Now isn’t a time to stop, it’s a time to push onward with reconciliation.
This is a massive opportunity for the renewable energy industry and First Nations communities to create jobs on Country, provide low-cost power to remote communities and provide economic opportunity where there is little.
For the clean energy transition to be truly just, engagement with and the inclusion of First Nations communities is essential.
There may not be a “Voice” for First Nations in our constitution any time soon, but there are plenty of ways we can ensure they participate and are heard, where it matters.
I will be in Parliament later this week hosting a forum for all Federal Parliamentarians along with our partners the First Nations Clean Energy Network and a delegation of leaders from the Canadian First Nations people. The Canadians are a long way ahead of Australia and are here to share their progressive ideas and tangible progress to partnership in clean energy.
We can also draw hope and inspiration from the growing examples of genuine leadership and partnership between clean energy businesses and First Nations communities.
We know, on every project, on all Country, that we will either pull together, or pull apart. In this way, we are acutely aware that our responsibilities go beyond the commercial imperatives. We know we need to work harder, but I believe there is also reason to be optimistic and proud.
The recent example of Beon – building the 240MW Avonlie solar farm for developer Iberdrola, listening and innovating with the Wiradjuri people of Narrandera in regional New South Wales is a prime example. They created 30 quality jobs for Wiradjuri people as part of the project.
Industry leader ACEN is partnering with the Yindjibarndi people in Western Australia’s Pilbara region, to develop, own, and operate large-scale renewable energy projects of up to 3GW capacity.
The partnership includes a requirement for Yindjibarndi approval for all proposed project sites, Yindjibarndi equity participation of 25% to 50% in all projects, preferred contracting for Yindjibarndi- owned businesses, and training and job opportunities for Yindjibarndi people.
Through the negotiation of Cultural Heritage Plans there is an exchange of ideas that have educated and changed our executives, workforces and communities. Listening is a necessary part of the process. Through this dialogue and negotiation, we can build respect and share value that benefit us all.
These are among many recent and great examples of real progress, we want the entire industry to follow.
The Voice would have been a symbolic and practical step forward. But it’s not the only way to make progress.
It’s now incumbent on all of us in the clean energy sector, to roll up our sleeves and find other meaningful ways to give voice and genuine partnership to First Nations communities in the clean energy revolution.