Horizon Power is using solar to help its Reconciliation efforts

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Western Australia’s regional utility, Horizon Power, has launched its Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan 2020-22 (RAP) to strengthen relationships with Indigenous peoples, specifically an effort to boost the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees at Horizon.  

Horizon Power supplies electricity to 53 remote and town-based Indigenous communities with approximately 15% of Horizon’s customers identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. However, only 5% of Horizon’s workforce is Indigenous and RAP is an effort to make those numbers more closely align. 

Horizon Power CEO Stephanie Unwin said that “Horizon Power is committed to having a positive impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customers, suppliers, employees and communities.” 

“This RAP delivers targeted outcomes, actions and accountabilities mapped across the reconciliation themes of relationships, respect and opportunities” continued Unwin, “and aligns to our guiding principle – to improve the lines of First Australians through proactive and sustainable business decisions.” 

The RAP mandates that all decision making at the Board, Executive, and strategic level takes Indigenous peoples into account as a deciding factor. Moreover, the Initiative will introduce comprehensive cultural education programs for all its employees, provide extra training and procurement opportunities for Indigenous people and businesses, and install a new engagement strategy. 

WA Energy Minister Bill Johnston launched the RAP in the East Kimberley community of Warmun where Horizon Power installed 150kW of solar panels across six buildings last year, saving the community approximately $72,000 annually on their energy bill. 

“By developing Reconciliation Action Plans,” said Johnston, “our public sector is leading the way in this field and influencing the community in achieving reconciliation with the first peoples of this nation.” 

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt added that the RAP “aligns to the State GOvernment’s Aboriginal Procurement Policy and its themes of Aboriginal advancement, regional development and employment.”

Warmun is a participant in Horizon Power’s Solar Incentives Scheme, a $1 million commitment made in 2018 to provide 900 kW of community-owned solar to eight remote Indigenous communities. The Initiative resulted from customer feedback saying that whilst they knew solar would save them money in the long run, the upfront costs were not manageable. 

Under the Scheme, Horizon Power will provide 30% (capped at $100,000 per project) of the upfront capital cost of solar systems installed by eligible Aboriginal Corporations in its constituency. The Djarindjin and Lombadina communities in the west Kimberley were the first off the rank with 80kW and 30kW installs, respectively, followed by Bidyadanga in the west, and Warmun. 

Lombadina Corporation Director Phil Sibosado with
Jessica Seares, Horizon Power – Lombadina 2018

Image: Horizon Power

However, whilst the RAP celebrates the Scheme, it neglects to mention that the Scheme runs out in June 2020. 

Nevertheless, Reconciliation Australia has given RAP its tick of approval.