Latrobe Valley locals have identified a range of opportunities that could benefit all the communities impacted by the energy transition currently underway in the region – including addressing social disadvantage while increasing community participation for marginalised groups, including First Nations, young people and migrants.
During the recent ‘What Next – Community leadership for a positive transition’ community engagement process, a representative group of community leaders and residents spoke about their hopes and ideas for good energy transition.
A key finding was that participants believed that if managed well, the energy transition could provide opportunities to transform and improve the systems that underpin society, the regional economy, and people’s relationship with the local environment.
They saw potential benefits beyond job creation and Australia’s decarbonisation goals, and described opportunities to ensure the energy transition delivered improvements to people’s quality of life and the environment. Participants also offered tangible ideas for steps that could be taken to achieve this.
“The Latrobe Valley is undergoing a rapid economic transition as it grapples with the looming closure of the remaining three coal fired electricity plants and the acceleration of renewable energy developments across the broader region,” said Lisa Lumsden, the project manager with The Next Economy.
“One of the key objectives of this project was to facilitate conversations with a group of leaders who represented a diverse range of residents from across the Latrobe Valley to understand the current barriers to participation and their views on the energy transition.”
“One thing all participants agreed on was that energy change is well underway, and many pointed out areas where good progress has been achieved. However, everyone knows this is a long road, and diverse participation from the local community has an important role to play in shaping where it leads,” she said
First Nations leaders involved with the project described wanting to partner with developers and government, and find opportunities to embed cultural values and Indigenous knowledge in transition planning and activities.
“If done well, the energy transition could contribute towards improving health, education, housing supply and efficiency, cost of living, service access, plus other barriers currently experienced by people in the region. We could make energy transition improve our lives, if we make it our priority,” said Harlequin Goodes, Latrobe Valley project youth participant.
“It is desirable, and proponents have indicated an aspiration to primarily source labour from within Gippsland. Local education and training institutions have introduced courses to address the skills needs, ” said Carolyn Crossley, Chair of Gippsland Climate Change Network Inc.
“A recent study found hundreds of Gippsland businesses already have capabilities applicable to the renewable industry. However, it is accepted that due to skills and labour force limitations some labour will need to be temporarily imported if we are to meet our decarbonisation targets,” she said.
Specific opportunities participants identified in the report included:
James Norman, Media and Content Manager