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How Authentic Co-design can help Governments navigate the Energy transition

Our energy sources are transitioning at an accelerated rate from fossil fuels to renewable energy (like solar, wind, green hydrogen, geothermal and wave energy). In Australia, the pace is picking up and there are some startlingly large goals being set by Governments for new energy projects in the coming decades. This is mainly because almost all Australian states and territories have net zero emissions policies set for 2050 and similarly large appetites for energy transition.

But this energy transition means new places (and ways) to make the energy, new ways to move the energy, new places (and ways – e.g., big batteries) to store the energy, and even new types of markets for access to energy.

In the past the old fossil fuel energy producers lost their social licence with many communities when the impacts of ongoing coal and gas production did not meet with the expectations of local, or broader, communities. Even now there is low to variable social licence for fossil fuel energy projects in many places in Australia. While there has been some concern about wind and solar farms in some locations, the renewable energy sector comes with a new cleaner, greener social licence and seems keen to maintain that trust with communities. Governments are also relying on that social licence and trust to continue as the energy transition ramps up faster and significant changes are introduced.

As we move around communities and stakeholders, we hear about the desire for that social licence to be maintained, and for it to be real and sustainable. We hear from communities who want (amongst other things):

● more input into their future energy mix,

● access to less decentralised energy,

● to understand more about this new technology and what it means for them,

● new markets,

● and many want a say in the rules that govern what energy production or transmission goes where, and when.

The image accompanying this story is a dramatic example of some of the request’s communities are making for input to a future energy transition that affects them.

Ramping up the energy transition is a challenge for Governments, who are still updating the regulatory and policy frameworks that are needed for the transition. Governments want more renewable energy, communities want more renewable energy, businesses want more renewable energy – how do we bring together all those potentially competing needs and at least maintain, if not BUILD, trust.

Authentic Co-design is an approach that builds trust. It facilitates empathy for different perspectives and draws on the inherent tensions and diverse aspirations to work toward innovative responses. It helps break down complex technical information in a way that brings people into the discussion rather than excludes them. It results in all participants being wiser because of the process. It is a process of structured co-decision making that builds ownership for the potentially opposing groups. It is not always easy (nothing good ever is!) and means thinking differently about who makes what decisions and why. The Authentic Co-design framework has been created to enable decision-makers to bring others along on the journey with them, based on the notion that an active role in co-designing something important builds a sustainable way ahead in a project or program, or an energy transition.

If you are wondering how to deliver your part in the green energy transition, or want to plan now to make things easier later (when the project is starting, or moving into the next stage) then it’s the perfect time to learn more about co-design through our effective and self-paced courses:

Or if you work for a government department struggling with these challenges, get in touch via and we can discuss a co-design training package suitable for you and your team.

Photo Credit: ABC News/Moorabool and Central Highlands Power Alliance.

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