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How do we transition to a decarbonized grid and reach targets, while also protecting the local communities who will bear the brunt of this change?

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The transition to a decarbonized grid is a complex process. Reducing carbon emissions is critical for our planet’s health. We must also ensure that we do not leave local communities behind in this transition. We all agree that the end game is to create a fair and just transition, where everyone can benefit from a sustainable energy future. Investing in communities that are most affected by the transition will ensure that we do not leave communities behind.. Ultimately, the transition to a decarbonized grid must be a collaborative effort. So how do we as an industry juggle customers and industry needs to answer utilities energy equity equation?

We ask industry experts Beth Brunoro from RACE for 2030 and Sabiene Hiendl of The Energy Charter for their thoughts and insights.

 

 

The Opportunity: Australia is  accelerating towards a renewable energy future. Communities are approaching a growing number to host renewable energy. These developments have the potential to impact the lives and livelihoods of communities, including regional communities, farmers and First Nations groups. There is a huge opportunity to recognise and minimise these impacts, working collaboratively across the energy sector towards shared value outcomes for everyone.

How: There are five key steps to build and maintain social licence. Prioritise trust. Engage meaningfully with communities. Authentically manage the impacts. Realise shared benefits. Finally, it’s a long game: commit to ongoing monitoring, assessment and iteration. Transparency and accountability are critical.

At the Energy Charter our focus is genuine collaboration with communities. We aim to better understand and act on the factors that contribute to building trust and maintaining social licence. In addition to our Better Practice Social Licence Guideline, we run regular Landholder Engagement Training and support the Ag Energy Social Licence Roundtable.  Both aimed at delivering shared value outcomes for all. We firmly believe that as a sector we are #BetterTogether with our communities.

 

 

It is impossible to do justice to the important set of considerations this question throws up in a short response, but here goes.  There is no simple or perfect approach that will ensure that all communities think the transition has been done ‘right’ or they have been ‘protected’. Every community is different, and the views of individuals within each community on how the transition should unfold vary enormously.

There is also huge variation in the role that each community can play. Specifically in the transformation due to demographics, attitudes, geography, climate, economic base, etc. What the ‘brunt’ looks like is not uniform. Factors and implications at play for each must be understood and used to shape flexible responses that add up to the society wide transition required. There will be impacts along the path to net zero – these need to be honestly communicated. Change of this magnitude is not possible without trade-offs.

It is why we at RACE for 2030 are focusing significant research effort on understanding the factors at play and the possible solutions that can be deployed within and across communities to make our transition as smooth and painless as possible. I look forward to discussing the critical issues at the conference in May.

 

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You can also hear from Beth and Sabiene at our exhibition and summit next 7 – 8 May! Register free online for the exhibition and book your delegate pass. Hear from this month’s contributors and 100+ utilities experts. 

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