A two-day roundtable feeding into the development of the First Nations Clean Energy Strategy begins in Fremantle, Western Australia today.
Karrina Nolan, co-Chair of the First Nations Clean Energy Network says the opportunity of renewable energy should be available for all.
“The clean energy transition is an opportunity to reset relationships and remove inequities in policy, regulation and investment.
“Although energy access is a right, many First Nations in regional and remote areas experience energy insecurity through electricity disconnections, unreliable supply, unaffordable power, and an absence of energy consumer protections considered the norm.
“Over 3.4 million households in Australia currently benefit from rooftop solar installations bringing clean reliable power, yet people living in social and community housing and First Nations in regional and remote areas remain locked out of clean energy investment and housing and community-led initiatives.
“First Nations must be able to participate in and benefit from Australia’s energy transition.”
Chris Croker, co-Chair of the First Nations Clean Energy Network says First Nations around the country want their rights and responsibilities to land and sea recognised.
“The National Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Act 2021, for example, renders First Nations rights invisible – a form of terra nullius of the sea, so people have told us that needs urgent reform.
“Developing and amending policies significantly impacting First Nations rights and responsibilities to land and sea country will allay investor concerns and significantly reduce project risk.”
Nolan says First Nations are already planning to build, own and operate renewable energy solutions in their homes and communities; turning off expensive and polluting diesel and gas, ensuring access to reliable affordable clean power to address the worst impacts of climate change, and creating jobs and employment pathways for communities.
“Governments must remove the barriers that prevent and inhibit First Nations access to clean energy, and enable First Nations-led clean energy projects to not only be invested in, supported and developed, but also to be connected to grids, to energy markets and to customers.
“As roundtable participants have told us around the country, the energy transition can only accelerate at the pace and scale required with early engagement, transparent information and the consent of First Nations, meaningful partnerships, significant equity stakes, and ownership or co-ownership of small-, mid- and large-scale developments on First Nations land.”
To-date, five roundtables feeding into the First Nations Clean Energy Strategy have been held this year, starting in March in the Pilbara, followed by the Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, and South Australia. Following Fremantle, further roundtables will be scheduled for Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania.
The Federal government’s Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water along with the National Australians Indigenous Agency and the First Nations Clean Energy Network are running the roundtables in each jurisdiction with First Nations traditional owners, energy regulators, retailers, utilities and developers, and government representatives invited to attend.