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Energy Ministers meet, commit to First Nations Clean Energy Strategy

Placing First Nations communities at the heart of Australia’s clean energy boom is now underway, with Federal, State and Territory Energy Ministers today committing to develop a new strategy which will see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people share in the benefits of the renewables revolution.

The Energy Ministers’ Communique includes a commitment to a co-designed and resourced First Nations Clean Energy Strategy to ensure First Nations people are central to the energy transformation.  The 2022 Federal election ask of the First Nations Clean Energy Network is set out below. 

Karrina Nolan, Executive Director of Original Power and a key architect of the First Nations Clean Energy Network said, “We welcome Minister Bowen and governments at all levels rolling up their sleeves and getting on with the job of implementing a vision set by communities and the First Nations Clean Energy Network. 

The rapid transition to renewables needs to happen with pace but also a sharp focus on ensuring First Nations heritage is protected and communities share in its economic and social benefits.

“The First Nations Clean Energy Network is confident that this show of commitment from Energy Ministers will mean there’s now an opportunity to put Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people front and centre.

If done well, clean energy will provide a big boost to our communities. We have an opportunity to do development right this time, protecting country and sacred sites while delivering reliable power, jobs and economic opportunity for our communities.”

Chris Croker, Managing Director, Impact Investment Partners and First Nations Clean Energy Network Steering Group member said, "A clear government strategy, co-designed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders, will enable engagement in the massively growing clean energy and investment fields. 

“Working together we can unlock investment in new energy projects and solve energy security challenges. We will advance economically and ensure a clean energy future for our people.”

 

2022 Federal Election Commitment proposed by the First Nations Clean Energy Network

We back the active participation of First Nations people in Australia’s clean energy revolution. This critical transition must occur in full and meaningful partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and Traditional Owners, upon whose resources the clean energy revolution relies, and who must share equitably in its jobs and economic and social benefits.

We commit to support the following measures:

  1. Resource federal, state and territory roundtables across the nation to support the network’s three pillars, launched by the end of 2022 and inviting representatives from the First Nations community, the network, industry, key government departments and Federal, state and territory elected representatives. These roundtables should be tasked with coming up with recommendations for actions, policies and programs that the Federal Government should implement.

  2. Resource the development, promotion and implementation of industry best practice standards that companies adopt and investors require before committing capital to clean energy projects. These resources will secure fair agreements for land use and benefit sharing, while building capacity through training and employment for First Nations people.

  3. Review federal laws, regulation and policy to lift barriers and implement regulatory reform that promotes the development of renewable energy and stokes government investment in innovation, technology and infrastructure, so First Nations people share equally in the benefits of the renewable energy revolution.



Context 

The new Federal Labor government has promised to create jobs, cut power bills and reduce emissions by boosting renewable energy as part of its Powering Australia plan and for Australia to become a renewables exporter to the world

There is a global renewables transition underway. Over a quarter of Australia’s energy generation now comes from renewables and, despite a lack of significant government investment or an appropriate regulatory environment, Australia is set to surpass its renewable energy target of 50% by 2030. 

This is driving a massive shift in Australia’s energy system and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can and should benefit from this revolution, whether from small community-based projects to large scale, export focussed initiatives. 

First Nations communities struggle with unreliable and expensive power and the impacts of this are worsening as extreme temperatures increase. The regulatory environment is complex and can frustrate efforts to build energy security. 

Many First Nations communities are either proactively considering clean energy or are being asked - via development - to understand and engage with the clean energy industry. We have an opportunity to position First Nations peoples as co-designers and drivers of projects.

First Nations people have substantial native title rights and interests. Indigenous land title is now recognised over more than half the Australian continent, encompassing many of our richest renewable energy resources including sun, wind and waters. With this boom, First Nations’ land and consent will be more critical than ever.

 

What is the First Nations Clean Energy Network?

Launched in November 2021, the network is led by a high profile Steering Group and backed by supporters from First Nations organisations, land councils, industry groups, academics, technical and legal experts and unions. The network is pursuing three key pillars of work essential to ensuring First Nations people benefit from Australia’s clean energy boom:

  • Community: Enable communities to drive the development of clean energy projects that provide direct benefits to residents through cheaper and more reliable energy. 
  • Industry Partnerships: Promote the development and implementation of best practice principles to underpin agreements for land use and benefit sharing between First Nations communities, companies and investors, while building capacity through training and employment for First Nations people to participate in the renewable energy sector.
  • Policy reform: Advocate to lift federal and state regulatory barriers to renewable energy development and put in place policies and programs to unlock the opportunities.

Network partners include the National Native Title Council, Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation, Smart Energy Council, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at ANU, Clean Energy Council, Renewable Energy Alliance, ACTU, ETU and MUA, Impact Investment Partners, Community Power Agency, Lowitja Institute, Climate Council, and many others.

 

Summary of the First Nations Clean Energy Network’s vision

The opportunity of renewable energy should and can be available to all. But we know for many of our communities that affordable secure and clean power is not yet a reality. 

We want to ensure our people are part of the renewable energy revolution, from household solar through to incubation of community-owned projects and equitable arrangements for large scale renewable projects. This will require investment and a supportive government policy framework and a commitment from industry and investors to apply best practice principles.

We will make sure clean energy is done the right way, driven by our communities and developed so it sustains country and culture for generations to come.

We will ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are able to participate in and benefit equitably from the scaling of renewable energy generation and production, creating jobs, building skills and stronger communities, while addressing climate change which threatens our country and people.

We will also assert our right to consent, or not, to projects on our country, ensuring some of the mistakes of the extractive industry are not repeated, so we share in the benefits as renewable energy expands, while protecting our cultural heritage.