– Tony Goodfellow, Victoria/Tasmania Coordinator, RE-Alliance.
Recently, and without much fanfare, the Tasmanian Government released the Tasmanian Renewable Energy Coordination Framework. Tasmania has an ambitious climate program with a legislated Renewable Energy Target of 200% and a plan to meet this target. The Framework will help guide the renewable energy rollout – and it has some really excellent features.
The Framework was shaped by young people. At the suggestion of Tasmania’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, a ‘Youth Version’ of the Tasmanian Renewable Energy Action Plan was released that invited feedback, to give young Tasmanians an opportunity to have their say on the future. Feedback was sought from the Premier’s Youth Advisory Council, Greening Australia’s Tasmanian Youth Climate Leaders Program (see video below), and participants in the Commissioner for Children and Young People Ambassador Program (see the report).
The government department Renewables, Climate and Future Industries Tasmania (ReCFIT) asked for submissions more broadly on the Framework, and groups and individuals offered suggestions. You can read RE-Alliance’s submission here.
The submissions from young people and others pointed out a gap: there was a lack of coordination and communication with communities in the plans for renewable energy developments.
The renewable energy opportunity in Tasmania, from the Framework (p. 3).
Here are some key elements of the Renewable Energy Coordination Framework.
Benefit and engagement guide
The Framework recommends the creation of a community engagement and benefit guide to support best-practice community engagement and deployment of community benefit programs by renewable energy companies. We look forward to the release of the community engagement and benefit guide, and hope to see more details on local training, jobs and procurement; sponsorship grants and community benefit funds; community co-investment or co-ownership; and education and awareness raising. The Framework highlights the possibility for strategic benefits:
“With the scale of the renewables vision, there may be an opportunity within Renewable Energy Zones to leverage and add to the proponent programs to deliver on other community and social aims, for example adding to public housing stock. Options for maximising community benefit as the scale of renewables pipeline investment grows will be investigated and consulted upon as part of this Framework of actions.”
Renewable Energy Zone Coordinator
The Framework endorses creating and appointing a Renewable Energy Zone Coordinator. The Coordinator’s role would be to “progress the planning, design and ultimate development of future REZ to support the achievement of the Tasmanian Renewable Energy Target. The Coordinator will lead community engagement regarding REZ development and benefit sharing.” Having someone to coordinate benefits, provide a source of reliable and accessible information for locals, and act as a conduit between the community, government and industry is crucial.
We hope that Renewable Energy Zone coordination efforts will include a shopfront or local office where people can easily drop in to find reliable information about the REZ, including information relevant to landholders who are looking to become wind or solar farm hosts, or those who might become a neighbour to a project.
Review of planning process to be better for environment outcomes
In our submission to ReCFIT, we recommended new legislation to determine whether projects such as large-scale solar farms, transmission lines, pumped hydro and hydrogen should be listed as activities requiring assessment from the Tasmanian Environment Protection Authority.
We’re pleased to see Action 5 in the Framework: “Review energy and land use, environmental and social legislation, policies and strategies to enable appropriate development in pursuit of renewable policy objectives”.
The four pillars of the Framework, including community and environment (p. 9).
Local upskilling through apprenticeships and training can be a great way to make sure there’s a skill transfer to local regions. Jobs are perhaps the key consideration in local communities’ attitudes towards REZ development. Action 8 in the Framework highlights the importance of jobs and training:
“Training takes time and is an immediate priority. Creating skills readiness will build trust in communities that they will be able to take up real and tangible opportunities from the renewable energy development in their area. The $16 million Energising Tasmania initiative has been established to work in partnership with Tasmania’s education and training sector to deliver the right skills when needed as identified in the workforce development plan. This will deliver up to 2,500 fully subsidised training places.”
Training will be a big challenge to unlock the $7 billion of new direct investment in major projects planned over the next ten years.
Communication of energy transition
Clearly communicating the remarkable changes that are occurring as a result of Australia’s energy sector moving away from fossil fuels is critical – which is why it’s great to see actions in the Framework related to communication and education. “In addition to Energising Tasmania, the Government is working on a range of communication and education actions related to emerging opportunities for communities.”
Developing REZ spatial mapping
We’ve long called for social, environmental and cultural heritage to be part of the siting process for renewables developments from an early stage. We’re glad to see that Action 4 calls for mapping that incorporates natural and heritage values:
“Complete spatial mapping to identify optimal siting of renewable energy growth, taking into consideration natural and heritage values, overlapping land uses (e.g. renewables, mining, tourism), and community values to ensure future policy initiatives developed align with the Government’s sustainability objectives and Tasmania’s brand.”
What’s missing from the Framework?
One gap in the Framework is engagement and benefit programs that are designed with Traditional Owners and with the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent. We understand there is a parallel process for Traditional Owners in Tasmania that will frame the future rollout but there are no details as of yet.
Another gap is lack of/details about funding. As RE-Alliance member and central Tasmanian community member Dr. David Meacheam points out in a blog post, so far only $800,000 per year has been committed to the Coordination Framework. Such an important element may need a greater commitment.
A key takeaway from the process so far is the immense value of intentionally seeking feedback from young people, who are so often excluded from important government decisions. This process of actively including young people is a great model. As the Commissioner for Children and Young People stated:
“In a fantastic initiative that I hope will be emulated by other organisations, young Tasmanians are being given the opportunity to have their views considered in the drafting of Tasmania's Renewable Energy Action Plan.”
It’s wonderful to see young Australians shaping their renewable energy future!