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Unpacking the 5Cs for multi-generational benefits

There's 5Cs - consent, collaboration, capacity, co-design and co-ownership - and there needs to be incentives and resources put into all of those.

This is an excerpt from a radio interview with Karrina Nolan, co-Chair of the First Nations Clean Energy Network, played on ABC Statewide Drive.

Traditional Owners must consent to projects. Free prior and informed consent and early engagement is really critical to making sure we can do the transition at the scale and the pace required. 

But for people to genuinely consent, they need the information and the capacity to really engage. If people are involved in early engagement and collaboration, then projects are co-designed well. Projects are put in the places where they should be that make sure they're sustainable for generations to come. It’s about cultural heritage and working around sacred sites. Our people know where these projects should be placed.

Co-ownership makes the project more successful and more durable, with some of them having a lifespan of multi-generation 70 years. When they're designed well they're less risky for investors - it’s a more stable environment. Experiences in both Canada and even the US show us that joint ventures are nothing new to industry and are really successful when First Nations have a significant stake in the project.

We want to make sure we don't repeat those mistakes of the past which also means our traditional line of groups need to be adequately resourced.
We're also talking about a percentage of equity - we've seen that work really well in Canada. And we're looking to make sure that can happen here, including through government processes incentivising industry to have really high equity arrangements that include benefit sharing for First Nations.

Australia has 15 First Nations clean energy partnerships, Canada has 300

Canada is absolutely a decade ahead of us. They've got 300 medium to large scale projects that are either fully owned by First Nations or joint ventures.

In Australia at this stage we've got 15. They're all at different scales and at different stages of development and haven't yet been built. We're proud however because when we first did the First Nations Clean Energy Symposium a couple of years ago we didn't have any. 

Some of those 15 projects are going to be large scale export utility projects sending power offshore. And some of them are really helping outstations transition from diesel which we need to do, particularly for those communities living with heightened temperatures, to make sure they are climate resilient. Communities are saying there's a lot of diesel but there's also a heck of a lot of sunlight, so it seems very sensible to have renewable energy. Then there's medium sized communities reliant on diesel as well but might have powerlines that have been disconnected due to cyclones and floods. They're looking at microgrids which are going to be much more sustainable.

So there's a whole range of projects and that also means there's a whole range of benefits from those projects which might be about cleaner, affordable, more reliable power, or large scale economic development opportunities, or building a local workforce to make sure our local communities can have jobs.

Everyone has a role to play in the renewables transition

We established the First Nations Clean Energy Network 2021 to consolidate and coordinate our efforts and share lessons with each other. We had been looking to Canada and one of the things they told us was make sure communities can work together and really influence what government and industry are doing. This was one of the key lessons - they've been doing this for ten years!

We work to make sure we've got a network right across the nation. We've got over 600 members and thousands of supporters and we make sure that we can work with each other and share things that are working - how projects are going, what kind of finance is being accessed, what kind of policy reform is needed.

There's a lot of goodwill in the room at the First Nations Clean Energy Symposium, and there's a lot of hope. If we get in front of this and organise and work with the industry, then we can see this done differently.

People can join the First Nations Clean Energy Network as a supporter or go to the website and have a bit of a look at how they can support individual projects as well.