Review: Federal Government needs to ramp up community engagement around renewable projects

The final report from the Renewable Infrastructure Engagement Review highlights the importance of fostering genuine dialogue to address concerns and build trust within host communities

Windfarm man and woman

The Federal Government has embraced the findings from the Community Engagement Review from the Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner Mr Andrew Dyer.

The final report signals a renewed commitment to community-centred development and underlines the vital role of regional landholders in shaping the nation's energy future.

With a steadfast commitment to inclusivity, the government has pledged to implement all recommendations, particularly focusing on the active involvement of regional stakeholders in decision-making processes around new energy projects.

The review, commissioned to enhance and review engagement strategies with landowners and communities affected by renewable energy initiatives, comes at a critical juncture as the nation grapples with the retirement of aging energy assets.

Recognizing the importance of fostering genuine partnerships with regional and rural communities, Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen reinforced the imperative to hear local voices and ensure equitable benefits throughout the renewable energy transition.

“This report signals to regional and rural communities that we are determined to improve developer engagement to provide better information about an individual’s rights, involve communities earlier and more effectively, and properly handle complaints," Bowen said.

“Commissioner Dyer’s findings will help smooth Australia’s energy transformation and ensure greater project participation and equity”.

Central to the government's endorsement are the key recommendations aimed at streamlining processes and empowering local stakeholders.

These include:

  1. Reducing unnecessary community engagement by refining project site selection methods.
  2. Facilitating early collaboration between developers and local communities.
  3. Enhancing transparency and efficiency in planning and approval procedures to incorporate community feedback.
  4. Incentivizing developers to adopt best practices in engagement.
  5. Improving mechanisms for handling complaints effectively.
  6. Keeping communities informed about energy transition goals, benefits, and needs.
  7. Equitably distributing the benefits of the transformation.

Peak body the Clean Energy Council echoed the government's commitment to inclusive decision-making.

"Stronger community engagement is critical to the successful development of renewable energy projects and meeting Australia’s commitment to 82 percent renewables by 2030, and we welcome the release of this report," said Arron Wood, Chief Policy & Impact Officer at peak body the Clean Energy Council.

"We look forward to working with the Commissioner and Commonwealth, state and territory governments in responding to each of the report’s recommendations."

Looking ahead, the government vows to collaborate closely with states, territories, industry partners, and local communities to translate recommendations into tangible actions. By prioritizing regional inclusion and fostering transparent decision-making processes, Australia aims to chart a path toward sustainable energy development that reflects the diverse needs and aspirations of all stakeholders.

To read the Community Engagement Review final report, go here

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