21 August Hot topics affecting the clean energy transition August 21, 2023 By AMPLA Admin Board, Conference, Environment, Resources and Energy 0 Lauren Shave, Special Counsel, Gilbert + Tobin and President, ER Law Western Australia Branch In the past year, there have been a couple of issues that I think will continue to have an impact on the clean energy transition in coming years. It’s hard to separate the clean energy transition from the technological change that’s happening at the moment - the two have a lot to do with each other. The other is native title and cultural heritage where the change I’ve seen has been really positive in terms of engagement with Traditional Owners. The advent of artificial intelligence (AI) has come on pretty quickly and become an issue that people need to be aware of. One aspect of AI is technology like ChatGPT which I think shocked a lot of people by how incredibly fast it is at producing highly detailed answers. AI is also linked to things like autonomous technology on mine sites. If you think of an autonomous vehicle or drones going into dangerous places instead of human beings or being able to monitor people’s vital statistics remotely, these all have a huge impact on work health and safety for mining operators. When technology becomes available employers need to determine when their obligation to use it kicks in and there is also an ethical component, for example, when that obligation intersects with the privacy rights of employees. Over the past 12 months we’ve also started to see a shift in how energy corporations work with Traditional Owners. I think there’s a feeling amongst Traditional Owners that I’ve spoken to that mining hasn’t historically engaged with Traditional Owners in a way that allows full participation in a project, but there’s a hope that the clean energy wave can address this more inclusively. In many cases, Aboriginal Corporations are now well-equipped to take the best advantage of the opportunities that clean energy projects present, and I think best practice now sees Traditional Owners embedded in the project structure from inception. I think this is partly due to the growing importance of ESG, and the willingness of shareholders to hold companies to account and scrutinise directors and management for the decisions they take regarding the environment and traditional owners. As a result, there is a much greater emphasis on social responsibility and maintaining a social licence to operate. Community expectations around these issues have similarly evolved and become an important consideration for project proponents. Clean energy projects are also being initiated at a time when native title is relatively settled, so it is largely clear who has native title rights and how any native title consents need to be obtained. I think a major challenge for project proponents (and their lawyers) now is certainty. Governments desire control when it comes to climate, cultural heritage and resource allocation which means increasing complexity and regulatory frameworks. It can be tricky to operate amidst this uncertainty, but energy and resources companies are already good at this. Managing internal and external expectations by incorporating the major uncertainties within your plans is key. As lawyers, we can help by providing clear guidance on likely timeframes and sticking points so that proponents can plan appropriately and communicate well with their stakeholders and the community. The ER Law Conference is a good way to get up to speed with what’s happening as well and speak to others who are facing similar challenges. I’m really looking forward to the sessions on emerging technologies, as this has massive implications for the work health and safety space. I’m also looking forward to the cultural heritage reform session which is very topical in Western Australia at the moment, given the state government intends to repeal of the new cultural heritage legislation (as announced just 5 weeks after the new law came into effect). It will be interesting to compare and contrast approaches to cultural heritage across jurisdictions. If you’d like to attend the ER Law Annual Conference you can register here. Related Articles The states boost the energy and resources sector This year will be remembered for the many challenges that it brought to both individuals and industry. As Australia starts to return to some normality, many states are looking to boost industry, increase jobs and innovate for the future. In this article, we look at various state initiatives designed to boost the energy and resources sector. Why hydrogen is becoming an important energy source Hydrogen as an energy source continues to grow in popularity. Once confined to industrial processes such as refining crude oil, it is now being recognised as a potential solution to the problems of electricity generation, transportation and storage. Over the next thirty years, global energy demand is predicted to grow by at least 30-40%. At the same time, the share of energy generated from fossil fuels has stayed almost static at 81%. While renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind are getting cheaper, they can only be generated on an intermittent basis. To make them commercially practical to use, they must be combined with high-energy batteries and backed with other energy sources. What the FIRB? An update on Australia’s foreign investment rules for energy and resources Digital transformation in mining and energy As the global shift to remote work gathers pace, it is more important than ever that the mining and energy sector embraces technology. But a digital transformation offers more than flexible working arrangements. It has the potential to drastically cut down on industrial accidents, optimise operational processes and slash costs. How foreign investment changes may impact the mining and energy sector In early June 2020, the government announced a review of the foreign investment rules, expanding them to apply to all foreign investors in anything deemed a ‘sensitive national security business’. The changes are scheduled to come into effect on 1 January 2021. There are concerns that this will impact foreign investment in the mining and energy sectors, and in particular the critical minerals space. Energy industry and government response to COVID-19 In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, government and industry have come together to ensure the community, economy and industry are supported. The Council of Australian Governments Energy Council (COAG Energy Council) has formed the Energy Coordination Mechanism (ECM) which is expected to have a complete plan by the end of April. The immediate focus of these efforts has been on four areas Showing 0 Comment Comments are closed.