Renewables and rural Australia

Community experiences in NSW and the Case for More Equitable and Coordinated Development
Join the authors of this major study of the social impact of large-scale renewable energy in rural communities as they launch their ground-breaking report and discuss the local and national policy implications of this research.

The technological shift away from coal to renewable energy for electricity generation is also a spatial shift. We are moving electricity generators to new dedicated Renewable Energy Zones (REZ) in parts of rural Australia that have not hosted energy utilities at this scale before. The landmark report, Renewables & Rural Australia: A study of community experiences in Renewable Energy Zones in NSW and the case for more equity and coordination of the clean energy transformation, presents an analysis of this transition based on field trips, interviews, policy and industry analysis in some of the communities that will host Australia’s new electricity infrastructure.

At this launch event, the experts behind the report will describe this spatial shift, the experiences and issues arising from large-scale renewable energy developments among residents, landowners, Traditional Owners, councils, project developers and other stakeholders, and make recommendations for future policy development and implementation. While Renewable Energy Zones are a huge opportunity both for regional communities and for decarbonisation in Australia, if national REZ policy is to succeed it must be socially and environmentally sustainable and this must include bringing meaningful and equitable long-term development to local communities at the key sites of new electricity infrastructure.

The report’s authors Dan Cass, Professor Linda Connor, Dr Riikka Heikkinen and Dr Rebecca Pearse will be joined by launch officials, NSW independent MPs Alex Greenwich (Sydney) and Dr Joe McGirr (Wagga Wagga), as well as Sydney Environment Institute energy experts Professor Susan Park and Professor Christopher Wright.

This event was hosted by the Sydney Environment Institute and The Australia Institute and presented online on 15 June, 2022.

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Dan Cass leads electricity reform research at the Australia Institute. He is senior advisor to the Clean Energy Investor Group and a research affiliate at the University of Sydney Business School.

Linda Connor is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology in the School of Social Sciences, University of Sydney. She uses ethnographic methods to investigate social and cultural transformations in rural and regional communities experiencing large-scale  renewable energy development.

Alex Greenwich MP is the Independent Member for Sydney in the NSW Parliament, first elected in 2012. He is committed to working for a liveable, sustainable, and progressive Sydney for all.

Riikka Heikkinen is a PhD candidate in University of Technology Sydney comparing renewable energy reverse auction designs. She has experience as a wind farm project developer and is dedicated to work towards equitable energy transition.

Joe McGirr MP is the Independent Candidate for the State Seat of Wagga Wagga. Joe has worked in regional NSW for more than 30 years, firstly in emergency medicine, then in health and hospital management, followed by time in university administration before entering politics.

Susan Park is Professor of Global Governance at the University of Sydney. She focuses on how state and non-state actors use formal and informal influence to make the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) greener and more accountable.

Rebecca Pearse is a Lecturer jointly working in the School of Sociology and the Fenner School of Environment & Society at the Australian National University. Her doctoral thesis was published as a monograph Pricing Carbon in Australia (Routledge/Earthscan, 2018).

Christopher Wright is Professor of Organisational Studies at the University of Sydney Business School where he teaches and researches on organisational change, sustainability and climate change. His research examines how managers and business organizations interpret and respond to the climate crisis in terms of risk, public discourse and corporate political activity. He is a key researcher at the Sydney Environment Institute, where he heads up a group examining corporate climate transition.

This launch event and the Renewables & Rural Australia report are part of a research collaboration between the Australia Institute and the Sydney Environment Institute at the University of Sydney.

This event is part of the Sydney Environment Institute’s Communities on the Frontline Series, which explores the impacts of a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy on a range of local communities on the frontline. This event series links multiple SEI research projects, including Unsettling Resources and Grounded Imaginaries, and highlights the work of the Institute in addressing those often left behind by systemic changes. The series features multiple events that delve into the social and ethical implications of a just transition in the Australian energy sector.

Header image: thka via Shutterstock, ID: 1964484097.

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