Today the Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner unveils the findings of the long-awaited Community Engagement Review. Community Power Agency, a leading advocacy organisation in the energy sector, expresses both welcome relief and a call for decisive action.
“After years of working with host communities, we are disappointed but not surprised to learn that the Review revealed an erosion of trust towards developers and the various government processes” says Dr Jarra Hicks, Community Power Agency Director.
“We are also not surprised by the findings that communities feel overwhelmed by the scale and speed of the transition in some places. There is a significant burden on communities to understand and engage with many individual projects, without much support to do so”.
Community Power Agency welcomes the general recommendations to motivate developers to achieve best practice and the emphasis on providing training to on-the-ground engagement staff.
“Doing community engagement well is crucial, that’s why we have run four rounds of our Socially Responsible Renewable Energy Development course. We know that there is a lot of need and interest in industry to build skills in this area” said Hicks.
The review calls for efforts to set a clear and compelling national narrative about the importance of the energy transition and support for communities to access quality information.
“With governments allocating billions of dollars on needed renewable energy infrastructure, we cannot leave communities to fend for themselves”
“We need to see significant spending on helping communities understand what is happening in their regions and to ensure the benefits of Australia’s energy transformation are shared with communities hosting this infrastructure.”
“Robust community engagement hinges on developers cultivating trust-based relationships with host communities over the lifetime of a project. To ensure this, appropriate incentives and regulations are required, not simply voluntary ratings.”
The review recognises the need to have cross-discipline and whole of government coordination of opportunities for local communities and businesses. To achieve this, we urge the Government to work collaboratively with local stakeholders to identify and build collaborative solutions to the big issues like housing, jobs, training, biodiversity protection and land use planning.
“We know communities and local businesses are motivated to participate in and benefit from renewable energy, but they need support and coordination to be able to do that”.