State and Federal Ministers must come up with a clear plan of action on community engagement for renewable energy infrastructure projects at a meeting to take place tomorrow, says Independent Federal member for Indi Helen Haines.

The Energy and Climate Change Ministerial Council, consisting of energy ministers across the country, will take place on Friday and Dr Haines wants to see an urgent response to the Community Engagement Review, which was released this month.

Led by Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner Andrew Dyer, the independent Review’s final report makes nine recommendations for reforming how renewable energy developers engage with regional and rural communities impacted by large-scale projects.

“This report is a roadmap for improving how people are consulted when renewable energy projects are developed in their communities. I welcomed the report’s delivery and now it must be acted upon,” Dr Haines said.

“The renewable energy transition is well underway in regional and rural Australia, so the implementation of this report is a matter of urgency. We need to see action and we need it quickly.

“The report highlights the complexity of implementing these much-needed reforms, due to the shared responsibility across the Commonwealth and the states and territories. That is why this report must take priority in the discussions of the Ministerial Council when it meets tomorrow.”

The Ministerial Council, consisting of state and territory energy ministers and federal Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen, meets at least four times per year. The most recent meeting on 24 November 2023 discussed energy security, climate resilience, achieving net zero and investing in Australia’s energy systems.

“I’ve met with Minister Bowen to make the case for regional Australia to truly benefit from the renewable energy transition. We must see transformational investment that will create enduring regional prosperity,” Dr Haines said.

“If the Federal Government is serious about meeting its net-zero targets and gaining community support for the energy transition, they are going to have to work with state and territory governments, energy developers and regional communities to get the transition right.

As a regional Independent MP who supports efforts to move to renewable energy, Dr Haines recognised the damage being done to regional communities by poor consultation and bad behaviour by developer cowboys.

“The failure to properly consult with regional communities affected by large-scale renewable energy projects and transmission infrastructure risks delaying or derailing the transition to net-zero,” Dr Haines said.

“There is a power and knowledge imbalance between renewable energy developers and local communities, and the Government needs to ensure regional Australians get the information they need to make good decisions, and that they properly benefit from the renewable energy rollout.”

“Farmers, landowners and concerned community members in Indi, like many electorates across the regional and rural Australia have been disappointed with the type of information and inadequate consultation by renewable energy companies.

“We have the report, we know what needs to happen. The Federal Government must lead on thisand work quickly and effectively with states and territories to implement the recommendations.”

The Federal Government review was established to advise on how best to engage with regional communities about future renewable energy and transmission projects, with the final report given to Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen in December. Dr Haines worked with Minister Bowen, and fellow Independent ACT Senator David Pocock on the Terms of Reference for the Review.

Dr Haines made a submission to the review, which included detailed recommendations and reflected the experiences of constituents in her electorate of Indi in North East Victoria.

Read the Community Engagement Review report here.

Read Dr Haines’ submission to the Review here.


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