It’s 2030, imagine if…

Hi Neighbour played a critical role in the transition of the 'Coal Coast' to the 'Clean Coast' by providing a reskilled labour force for the 10 gigawatt wind turbine located off the coast of Bellambi, the source of power for Bluescope's ResponsibleSteel facility at Port Kembla. When the Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) was in its infancy, Hi Neighbour acted as a knowledge and community hub, filling the gaps in the emerging low carbon jobs market and supercharging social cohesion in the former industrial towns of the Illawarra. It is estimated that at least half of the Government’s $43 billion dollar investment in the REZ has been retained in the region, accelerating local economies and providing a precedent for transitional industrial zones worldwide.

Summary of solution

A fossil fuel industrial heartland, the Illawarra, has been declared a Renewable Energy Zone, bringing $43 billion of potential investment for large scale renewable projects. There has been little consideration of local workers and community transition, creating barriers to low carbon job pathways, community division between those who welcome the change and those fearful it will take their jobs, and the risk of local businesses being excluded from the renewable transition due to upfront costs.

Hi Neighbour takes a Systems Thinking approach to the transition opportunities in the region and addresses the challenges of transition justice, community cohesion, and solar accessibility. They select a local business who is looking to reduce their emissions with rooftop solar and the community provides crowdfunding to Hi Neighbour to provide a loan to business for the solar rooftop. The business repays Hi Neighbour, with interest, into the scholarship fund which is used to support local workers to train in Technical Low Carbon (TLC) jobs. Coal and Steel workers and their close relations alongside with First Nations applicants are prioritised for training.

Why is this solution innovative

Hi Neighbour gives back to people by supporting those whose livelihoods have traditionally been reliant on fossil fuel industries. This is a key indicator of energy transformation success and stops the divide in the community between those who want decisive climate action and those who fear the loss of their jobs.Changing the story locally to support fossil fuel workers gives the community a chance to come together, build social cohesion and the resilience needed to face and embrace the major energy transformation set for the region. Once proved locally, this project envisions sharing their model so more communities can adopt and adapt this approach, further continuing the cycle of regeneration.

The social impact of this project will be invaluable. The project team has supportive local community, and they have done great preparation work to get funding to secure scholarships for their community.