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Big solar must share project benefits with Territorian communities

As the renewables revolution continues, big solar companies that come to Territorian towns and communities should respect and procure local business and support the local community. 

This was the message from The Environment Centre NT, at their Katherine Regional Arts presentation on the evening of March 13 in Katherine. The Centre’s Repower NT Manager Monica Tan said, “Large-scale renewable energy infrastructure can change a local landscape and community – much like any big mining or resource company.  

“It's vital that as we see more and more big renewable energy projects here in the NT, each comes in with the right mindset and doesn’t repeat poor precedents set by prior projects.” 

Tan and The Environment Centre NT director Shar Molloy are at the tail end of two weeks travelling from Alice Springs to Darwin. Over their travels the pair heard from many Territorian business owners and community members. She said, “There's a long history of Territorians feeling that they’re being railroaded by big resource companies. 

"Companies will bring from interstate or overseas fly-in-fly-out workers rather than hire local contractors. We also heard of companies paying lip service to requirements they procure local contracts by creating dummy projects, or companies giving such tight timelines with scant project details that local contractors with limited capacity scramble to fulfill the requirements or do the job well.” 

“From the outset, big renewables companies should come into Territorian communities willing to share the rewards of a project, respect and support the community's goals, and basically be a 'good neighbour'.” 

Beyond local procurement and supporting local businesses, other benefits may include funding community solar projects, discounts to residential electricity bills, subsidised energy efficiency programs, community benefit grants, and arrangements that help share benefits with neighbouring communities that may also be impacted by a development. 

Tan said empowering Territorian communities and educating the renewables industry on how to equitably share benefits was increasingly vital as the world moves towards a low-carbon economy. 

Last year the Environment Centre NT teamed up with internationally-recognised think tank Beyond Zero Emissions to produce a report that showed if by 2030 the NT Government helped drive investment in 10 gigawatts of renewables, it would create over 8,000 new jobs in the Territory and over $2 billion in new annual revenue. 

An ambitious renewables strategy can spark a vibrant manufacturing sector in the Territory, with export opportunities in energy infrastructure, zero-carbon manufacturing and minerals processing. 

Earlier that day Tan also presented at Katherine Town Council. She said it had been encouraging to speak with and hear from Katherine locals from across business, government and the community space who were all committed to a renewables-powered Northern Territory. She warmly welcomes interested parties to get in contact if they would like to know more. 

Monica Tan, Repower NT Manager 
Environment Centre NT 
[email protected] 
Ph: 0425 243 750 

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