Independent Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines will move a series of amendments to the Government’s Net Zero Economy Authority Bill to expand its remit to offer tangible benefits to communities and earn social licence for the clean energy shift in regional, rural and remote communities.

The Government’s Net Zero Economy Authority Bill seeks to ensure communities are supported and benefit from the transition to a net zero emissions economy.

But Dr Haines says it won’t fully deliver this objective in its current form and has put forward eighteen amendments to improve the Bill for regional communities.

“While I support what the Net Zero Economy Authority Bill aims to achieve, it fails to clearly set out how it will benefit regional and rural communities, particularly those that have never experienced energy generation and storage before,” Dr Haines said.

“It is important to support communities transitioning away from coal and gas. However, the Bill fails to address the challenges of other regional communities, like the ones I represent in Indi, who have never hosted coal-fired or gas-fired power stations that now find themselves on the frontline of the nation’s shift to renewables.”

The Authority must direct its work into all communities experiencing renewable energy development, not just those facing coal-powered station closures.”

Dr Haines’ amendments address deficits in the Bill by establishing measures to maximise local benefits for communities impacted by renewable energy projects. The amendments include ensuring at least one Authority board member has expertise in regional development and community leadership; and expanding the functions of the Authority to:

• enhance community wellbeing in regions impacted by the energy transition;

• set up a Developer Rating Scheme;

• undertake Community Benefit Plans; and

• establish Local Energy Hubs through which the NZEA can help communities to maximise beneficial outcomes and promote community investment.

“These amendments would offer regional people tangible, practical measures such as reduced power bills and investment opportunities in projects by helping them understand the benefits of hosting renewable energy projects in their community,” Dr Haines said.

“Regional communities need to feel informed about developments happening at their farm gate, they deserve transparency from governments and developers, and they need to know where they can go for reliable information about Australia’s energy transformation.”

The creation of Local Energy Hubs was part of Dr Haines’ Local Power Plan that was co-designed with community energy groups and tabled in Federal Parliament in 2020.

The Hubs would support regional towns and organisations to develop renewable energy project models that benefit their communities and provide information and clarification to local people about how the transformation will impact them.

“The creation of a network of Local Energy Hubs would create avenues for local participation in the energy transformation and assist in obtaining the social licence needed to achieve our decarbonisation goals, while delivering long-term regional development,” Dr Haines said.

Meadow Creek and Dederang are two communities in Dr Haines’ electorate of Indi where renewable energy storage and generation projects are raising community concerns.

“The shift to renewables is being strongly felt across regional and rural communities who sense this shift is happening to them, rather than with them. Community-led, co-designed projects will always deliver better results for local people,” Dr Haines said.

“The Federal Government has an opportunity and responsibility to support all regional communities involved in the energy transition.”


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