Over years working with regional communities to secure benefits from large-scale renewables, family farmers have told me how lease payments received for hosting wind turbines have helped their farms.
Having the flexibility to lower flock sizes during drought allowed one farmer to preserve his precious soils. Another family were able to expand their sheep and potato farm to include pyrethrum and poppies to diversify their future income sources.
Seeing first-hand the benefits for farmers and regional communities in the energy transition makes it difficult to understand why our federal government has not backed the regions by developing the right kinds of jobs and opportunities in the right places.
With some of the greatest renewable resources in the world, there's no reason not to retain our status as an energy exporting nation.
The Business Council of Australia, along with the ACTU, the Australian Conservation Foundation and WWF, last week launched a plan outlining how Australia can become a renewables-exporting superpower, creating a renewable jobs boom. The plan includes a $5 billion Energy Transition Authority to manage disruptive impacts of the transition on workers and regions with carbon-intensive industries.
This is not a far-fetched dream. This week Australian energy giant Twiggy Forrest announced a hydrogen electrolyzer manufacturing plant for the coal region of Gladstone, set to become one of the largest in the world.
Instead of fighting for regional outcomes, Barnaby Joyce and his small band of fossil-fuelists have been holding our government hostage on developing a plan for net-zero. Joyce should look to his colleagues in NSW, where a Liberal-National Coalition is successfully attracting billions in investment to the regions via Renewable Energy Zones, a model since taken up by other states.
This opportunity in renewable exports won't last. If we don't take it up, other countries will beat us to it in the global race to net zero, and it will be our regions that miss out the most.
- Andrew is the founding national director of RE-Alliance, a community-based advocacy group working to leverage the clean energy boom into a prosperous future for regional Australians.