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Ruby Heard on equity through energy: ESD News

The biggest challenge to an equitable energy transition in Australia is that equity is not the core value of the energy industry.

The transition to distributed clean energy has a lot of benefits for remote First Nations communities, but there are barriers in place that mean our people are being left behind and left out.

That’s Ruby Heard talking, one of 12 fabulous steering group members guiding the First Nations Clean Energy Network. Ruby is a descendant of the Jaru people of the Kimberley, an electrical engineer and founding director of Alinga Energy Consulting.

This is an excerpt from an interview Ruby did with ESD News.

Ruby says she realised addressing energy insecurity for First Nations people was her calling.

"Remote First Nations communities continue to struggle with energy access and affordability.

"While the industry focuses on decarbonising the National Electricity Market, many don’t realise that we have Indigenous communities burning thousands of litres of diesel a day for their power supply.

"Communities I have worked with in the Kimberley can use over 1,000L of diesel a day to power just 35 homes.

"Renewable energy has been the economically superior option for years now but there are hundreds of remote communities out there that don’t have a single solar panel.

"Households don’t have the option of rooftop solar to reduce their electricity bills and lower their carbon emissions, and centralised systems have been avoided due to lack of capital.

"Meanwhile, government departments and government-owned utilities lose millions of dollars a year to run and maintain the diesel supply.

"Diesel generation also presents other issues in community, such as the impact on air quality, noise pollution, and low resiliency.

"Pre-payment metering is also problematic for continuous supply of an essential service.

“A lot of my work focuses on solving these complex problems for our communities.

"It’s also why I sit on the steering committee of the First Nations Clean Energy Network and have focused my PhD research at Melbourne University around this same topic.

“I guess in some ways I’m working hard to solve part of the energy puzzle and put myself out of a job."

The excerpt was first published in ESD News