Representatives from First Nations communities across Australia have formed a renewable energy alliance to help reduce the burden of high energy bills and break the cycle of poverty.
Announced as an outcome of this week’s Community Energy Congress, the First Nations Renewable Energy Alliance aims to lobby government and to partner with private enterprise and other community energy alliances to support a transition to renewable energy.
More than 25 Australian First Nations delegates attended the congress, sharing stories of their experiences and holding discussions to workshop issues around the delivery of renewable energy to First Nations communities.
A spokeswoman for the representatives said there was concern about “tactics that have been employed by some of the big energy providers shutting renewable energy out of communities”.
Currently, some communities are seeing power bills as high as $5000 each quarter due to the reliance on costly fossil-fuel technology like diesel generators.
Three international First Nations speakers gave the Australian representatives inspiration for the task ahead.
Chief Gordon Planes from the T’Souke Nation in British Columbia, Canada, shared his experiences and knowledge. The T’Souke implemented a solar installation in 2009 comprising solar hot water systems for up to 40 homes in the community, and solar PV systems on community buildings.
The energy generated is use to provide power, top-up battery storage in the event of the mains grid hydro power failing, and some excess power is also sold to the energy authority.
The community has also installed electric vehicle charging for two community EV cars and an electric bicycle, and instigated a comprehensive energy efficiency program.
In addition to creating a greater degree of energy sovereignty for the community, the solar has also become an eco-tourism attraction.
Soren Hermansen from Samso Island, Denmark was also a key part of the discussions around self-determination and self-governance for First Nations people. His community is powered 100 per cent by renewable energy, the first in Denmark to achieve the milestone.
Melina Laboucon-Massimo from the Lubicon Lake band of the Cree people in Alberta, Canada, also spoke. Her community is in the heart of the Peace River oil sands development area. It has gone down the path of solar energy, starting with the Piitapan Solar Project, a 20.8kW renewable energy installation that powers the health centre.
The three international First Nations representatives committed to supporting the new alliance through further strengthening and growing international networks and relations.
360 Energy Group has pledged $10,000 in financial support and the use of its office space and other resources to help get the alliance up and running.
The Alliance has established a steering committee of seven First Nations members to progress actions and relationships with experts and other community energy organisations throughout Australia and across the world.
Delegates at the event included members of the Euahlyia Nation, Goodooga NSW; Ngalia Nation, Leonora WA; Yidinji, Mbarbarum and Njadon Nations, Cairns QLD; Nyemba Nation, Brewarrina NSW; Wongathar Nation, Kalgoorlie WA; Dadaway Nation, Kimberley WA; Yanyuwa and Garrawa, Boorooloola NT; Murriwarri Nation, Weilmoringle NSW; Noongnar Nation, Perth WA; Tjapawrung, Brabrooloong and Krauatungulung Clans, Victoria.