4 July 2023

Haines lands regional Australia a seat at the table in renewable energy projects review

An Independent inquiry into the way in which renewable energy projects and associated infrastructure will impact and deliver for regional communities will give residents in North East Victoria the opportunity to have their say.

Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen today announced a review to enhance community support and ensure that electricity transmission and renewable energy developments deliver for communities, landholders and traditional owners.

Independent Federal Member for Indi Dr Helen Haines worked closely with Minister Bowen to put the interests of regional Australia on the table in the review, ensuring the Terms of Reference would properly cover the opportunities and challenges being faced in Indi and around regional Australia.

“Regional Australia will be the home of this country’s renewable energy transition,” she said.

“The vast bulk of our new renewable energy system will be built in regional Australia, stretching from Esperance to Gippsland to Cape York.

“Renewables are being developed at a lightning pace right across our continent. But we must listen to the communities affected and make sure we get it right, or we risk failing to meet our emissions reduction and renewable energy targets.”

Alongside Independent Senator for the ACT David Pocock, Dr Haines worked with the Government to ensure the review will be able to consider issues important to her community, including the impact of renewable energy projects on agricultural land, emergency management, fire and biosecurity risks and increases in landholder insurance premiums.

Dr Haines said there were several existing and planned large-scale renewable energy projects in her electorate, including the Winton Solar Farm, the Glenrowan Solar Farm and Meadow Creek Solar Farm.

While her constituents largely support the transition to renewable energy, Dr Haines said the impact of large-scale renewable energy projects on regional communities did not receive enough attention, especially as these communities would also bear the risks.

“We can’t have big companies roll into town, steamroll the objections of communities, then take all the benefits offshore, leaving locals with nothing.

“We need to ask who benefits from renewables infrastructure, and are the host communities being brought along in the process?”

Dr Haines also ensured that benefit-sharing with local communities would be examined by the Review, including any financial benefits, local employment opportunities and skills development.

“Everyday regional Australians should get a fair share of the benefits of the current boom in renewable energy projects. This means jobs, training, and the opportunity to take up a stake by co-investing in local projects.

“We should harness the power of the renewable energy industry to deliver a generation of prosperity for everyday regional Australians. We can’t be left behind in the renewable energy transition.

Dr Haines has lead the way in federal politics in the push for communities to benefit from the transition to renewable energy, including through the development of the Local Power Plan and the introduction the of Australian Local Power Agency Bill in the last parliament.

“What we have seen so far is how much can be achieved when we get the transition to renewables right, where communities are involved and benefit from the change, but we are also seeing where it is not going well in parts of the country,” Dr Haines said.

“We need this review to make sure we get this right and I was proud to work with Minister Bowen and Senator Pocock to make it happen.”

The review will be conducted by the Australian Energy and Infrastructure Commissioner Andrew Dyer and will conduct rural and regional Australia roundtables, including with community, worker, farmer and industry participation. Some of these will be required to be held in Renewable Energy Zone communities. Dr Haines’ electorate of Indi is home to two Renewable Energy Zones, the Ovens Murray REZ and Northern REZ.

The Review will involve a discussion paper, public submissions and roundtables. The final report will be delivered to the Minister for the Environment by the end of 2023, with the report and government response to the recommendations to be made publicly available.

More information about the review can be found here.

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