The second of many roundtables feeding into the co-design of the Federal government’s First Nations Clean Energy Strategy was held on 16-17 May 2023 in Alice Springs with nearly 100 people in attendance. The first was held in March 2023 in the Pilbara, Western Australia.
Participants highlighted a key principle to frame the First Nations Clean Energy Strategy, namely that energy access needs to be treated as essential - a human right, not a service. First Nations people need a basic right of access to clean reliable affordable energy at a minimum.
The participants’ two-day discussion on the opportunities and barriers impacting First Nations in the energy transition produced ten key learnings and recommendations (discussed in the body of the paper), including:
- Households, communities and homelands need cheaper, cleaner power
- Communities and homelands want to transition away from expensive diesel using solar and batteries
- All social and community housing should have rooftop solar and storage installed as a priority
- New and existing housing infrastructure in regional and remote areas must meet the highest ratings, as is standard in other states and territories
- Energy efficiency measures and the upgrade and/or installation of new energy technologies should be mandated in housing across regional and remote Australia
- Standalone power systems or microgrids need to be installed where feasible in regional and remote areas, with the option of asset owners including community enterprises exporting power and/or connection to the grid, or for use in expanding business enterprises
- Funding and grants needs to be made available to First Nations people to enable the initiation of clean energy projects, with policy and regulatory barriers removed
- Co-designed small to medium scale community-led and owned projects are preferred over hosting large-scale export focussed projects. These should have clear options for benefit sharing between communities, government and industry.
- Clean energy project installations should use standardised high quality components available and appropriate to all communities, for easy maintenance by either the community, contractors or service providers, and people need to be informed and comprehend what clean energy technology they are getting, and be trained to install and maintain energy infrastructure
- Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) - the right to say yes or no to development on First Nations land - must be mandated