‘Let’s get on with it’: Regions want real solutions, not politics

RE-Alliance and Community Power Agency

Australia needs bipartisan support for a plan to help regional communities to work with and benefit from renewable energy infrastructure in regional Australia.

RE-Alliance and Community Power Agency have been working for more than a decade with regional communities hosting large-scale renewable energy projects and have solutions ready to fund that have come from regional communities.

RE-Alliance National Director Andrew Bray said the current discussion over Australia’s energy policy highlights how vital it is to listen to regional communities in our shift to a cleaner future.

Mr Bray said 40% of Australia’s electricity was already generated by renewable sources, increasing to 50% by the end of 2025, and regional Australia is already benefiting from hosting renewable energy infrastructure.

“Rather than policies of distraction, we need to see all sides of politics focussing on getting on with the job we’re halfway through.

“In this decisive decade for emissions reduction, governments can ramp up community engagement with solutions that exist right now. This will make sure the best renewable projects are supplying clean energy to homes and businesses, whilst benefiting local communities and looking after nature,” Mr Bray said.

Dr Jarra Hicks, Director, Community Power Agency said:

“We all want a say in the big changes happening in this country. But too often regional communities feel we aren’t properly consulted. These solutions can help us take hold of the shift to renewables with both hands,” Dr Hicks said.

With colleagues working in regional Queensland, New South Wales, the ACT, Victoria and Tasmania, RE-Alliance and Community Power Agency have been advocating to government to fund three key solutions to boost positive outcomes for regional communities hosting renewables infrastructure.

1. Provide trusted, local information: Fund and resource Local Energy Hubs in Renewable Energy Zones across Australia

A network of 50 Local Energy Hubs in Renewable Energy Zones across Australia staffed by trusted, local experts on topics such as local renewables and transmission projects and household electrification could provide this information and support.

2. Create a race to the top for better practice: Make the Capacity Investment Scheme (CIS) the best it can be

Research tells us that the fastest way to deliver quality renewable energy projects is to get communities involved from the very beginning and share the benefits.

Strengthening the CIS tender guidelines is the best opportunity we have to set a high bar for community and nature outcomes in every region that will host projects. The CIS is a national framework to encourage investment in renewables. The tender guidelines determine which projects get supported, and it’s vital that those delivering positive community outcomes are prioritised. The latest guidelines released in May now clarify and prioritise good community engagement for the first time. But, nature still needs stronger protection, and local knowledge can be better harnessed when it comes to mapping local habitats and species that need protecting.

The CIS could also include mechanisms to drive First Nations equity in renewable energy projects, similar to successful schemes in Canada and South Africa. The First Nations Clean Energy Network has been calling for a similar model in Australia.

3. Counter mis- and disinformation: Use organisations like the CSIRO, as trusted sources of information on renewables

Misinformation and disinformation can gain traction when there is an information vacuum in a community about the energy shift.

A high-trust entity, such as the CSIRO, could host a dedicated national centre to lead research on renewables and transmission projects, produce clear, publicly accessible information and undertake outreach to share these resources.

/Public Release.