The energy transformation in New South Wales has included a range of initiatives for First Nations people.
This paper has been produced to inform the NSW roundtable being held on 7-8 December 2023 in Wollongong, feeding into the Federal government's First Nations Clean Energy Strategy.
Energy landscape in NSW
The NSW Government has announced ambitious plans to transform the energy system from reliance on coal-fired power to 80% renewable energy by 2030. The Electricity Infrastructure and Investment Act 2020 (NSW) passed in 2020, gave effect to the NSW Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap.
The Roadmap is the Governmentʼs plan to transform the electricity system. To deliver the NSW Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap, the government announced five Renewable Energy Zones (REZs) where they will coordinate investment in transmission and generation to achieve these targets.
Renewable Energy Zones have been declared in the Central-West Orana, New England, South West, Hunter-Central Coast and the Illawarra Region.
The Government says it will also build about 4,000 kilometres of new transmission infrastructure in the next 20 years.
The NSW Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap includes measures to realise Aboriginal interests in the energy transition plans. These are captured through the necessity of proponents in the Renewable Energy Zones to address identified local Aboriginal aspirations as set out in the First Nations Guidelines.
The changing nature of NSWʼs electricity generation over time can be viewed at this resource.
The energy transition and Aboriginal people in NSW
At present, Aboriginal Working Groups in the Renewable Energy Zones are undertaking the responsibility of negotiating outcomes with renewable energy proponents.
These Aboriginal Working Groups have been the first point of contact in relation to the First Nations Guidelines and review Aboriginal Participation Plans which are a requirement of the competitive tender process called Long-Term Energy Service Agreements.
The Aboriginal Working Groups that have been established in Renewable Energy Zones, comprised of the local and regional Aboriginal organisations (for example, Local Aboriginal Land Councils, native title interest groups and Aboriginal leading service organisations) rely on Aboriginal organisations participating in an unpaid and un-resourced capacity.