05 September 2023
Regional Australia has the best renewable energy resources in the world. There are already many large scale – mostly foreign owned – renewable projects happening across the country.
There is no question – we need a rapid build of grid-scale renewable projects – generation, storage and transmission – if we are to meet the government’s target of 43 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030.
My electorate of Indi holds two renewable energy zones. Grid scale solar projects are being built at pace near Glenrowan and Benalla, while the Meadow Creek Solar Farm in the King Valley, and the Seymour wind farm in the Strathbogie Ranges are in early stages of planning.
The ambition renewables represent is critical if we are to meet our decarbonisation targets. But if we are to meet our national ambition then the communities who live near these projects deserve to be adequately consulted with and offered opportunities to benefit long term in the development of these projects. We need to be as ambitious for regional communities as we are for the nation as a whole. It is entirely reasonable and right that people have questions about how these projects will impact their community, property, insurance premiums, and farming operations. These concerns are often dismissed as objections to progress, NIMBYism, and whinging farmer stereotypes.
Not every question is an objection.
Regional communities are hungry for practical ideas about how to maximise the opportunities of the transition, but there are limited entry points for local farmers and families to engage in the process, to work with developers, and co-invest in the large-scale projects happening at their farm gate.
The economic benefits for regional communities who are most affected by these projects are not being realised.
In July, Senator David Pocock and I worked with the Minister for Energy and Climate Change Chris Bowen to initiate a review into Community Engagement around renewable energy infrastructure projects.
The review will provide the government with practical recommendations on how to maximise community engagement and community benefit in planning, developing and operating energy infrastructure.
Submissions are now open and I encourage people across regional Australia to make their voices heard through this process.
I am pleased the review will address impacts of energy infrastructure development on the environment or on agricultural land, including: Emergency management, fire and biosecurity risks, increases in landholder insurance premiums, tourism impacts and visual amenity. Communities must be able to raise their concerns and have them heard by governments and corporate developers.
Critically though they must materially share in the benefits of this energy transformation. We cannot just accept that profits go offshore and communities have no say. I have been a strong, practical voice for farmers and regional Australians since coming to this place. They deserve a share of the economic benefits of the renewable energy boom, and community engagement is at the centre of that.