The objective of the Citizens' Jury on Energy Economics and Security for New South Wales for the Public Accounts Committee of the NSW Parliament was to agree on a recommended course of action with regard to alternative forms of energy generation in NSW.
Problems and Purpose
The objective of the Citizens' Jury on Energy Economics and Security for New South Wales for the Public Accounts Committee of the NSW Parliament was to agree on an order of preference, barriers to adoption (including financial aspects and public perception issues) and recommended course of action with regard to alternative forms of energy generation in NSW. In order to do that, first it was the jury's role to address the problems and barriers of implementing these alternative means of energy.
Background History and Context
A policy jury is a deliberative body composed of people whose primary goal is to convene and make a decision on the matter of public policy. In this case, the policy juries that convened in Sydney and Tamworth (a large regional centre about 800 km from Sydney) were tasked with giving recommendations for energy supply and renewable energy alternatives.
The Citizens' Policy Jury was not designed as a parliamentary proceeding and therefore did not have parliamentary privileges. However the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) considered public input to be an integral part of its inquiry. Hence in terms of authority, it proposed that the juries' recommendations would be presented within the final report tabled for Government consideration alongside its own recommendations.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The two juries were established and funded by the newDemocracy Foundation (nDF) and was assisted by volunteer professional facilitators. nDF was responsible for the process design, selection and provision of facilitators. Participants on the juries were not remunerated for their time.
While it is felt by organisers that a modest per diem payment should be provided, this was not possible in this case as the nDF nor PAC budgets did not allow for it. For an event to be viable, especially where participants had to incur travel costs, it was felt that reimbursement is an important budgetary component. This is being assessed by nDF for future projects.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Participation was decided through random selection. Invitations were sent out for each policy jury to their respective locations. With invitations sent to a sample size of 4,000 citizens, a smaller random selection was drawn from the positive responses to match the demographics of the community (e.g. age/ gender). With this, they were assured to obtain two groups who are descriptively representative of the community even if one subset of the community responds disproportionately to the invitation. Each jury had approx 30 participants.
Note that these groups were chosen only for this particular inquiry. Any future Policy Jury should recommence a fresh selection process.
Methods and Tools Used
This event used the Citizens' Jury method which involves various tools of engagement including surveys, information and question and answer periods, small group deliberation (such as thematic dialogue tables or future workshops) and plenary discussion.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Each jury had approximately 30 participants. The Juries met formally four times (simultaneously in the two venues) over a period of three months as well as having access to a dedicated portal on which reports were posted and discussions took place.
Prior to the first meeting, a background document was circulated to panelists which comprised summaries of any submissions that were presented to the Government's internal committee (PAC). A call was also made (by nDF) for any submissions by relevant and interested parties e.g. companies, public interest groups, academics. Throughout the meeting process, the Juries were able to request information or appearance from experts of their own choosing. In other words, a Jury could request attendance in its own capacity, not under the authority of the PAC (whose statutory powers related to its role as a parliamentary body.)
nDF believed that it was imperative that the independence of the Jury deliberation and the provision of the all relevant information not be compromised in order to maintain the trust in the process.
As a result of the deliberation, the each Jury produced a set of recommendations that were tabled in the final PAC report, which in turn was presented to the NSW Government for assessment.
The recommendations from the two groups included:
- Create investment certainty across all renewables. A multi-partisan approach to energy generation and regulation is needed, with the establishment of a group to oversee long-term policy to ensure business confidence.
- Allow for the innovative practice of Demand Management to be applied
- Regulate to allow decentralized generation
- Efficient integration into the national grid
- Reform pricing to allow for time of day and flexible tariff options
- The energy market needs to be revitalised to facilitate improved market access for renewables. This would involve removal of subsidies for coal-fired power and a minimum price guarantee for renewables
- That there be a targeted framework to achieve a 100% sustainable energy mix by 2050.
- Consumers (private and business) should be rewarded for energy efficiency
- Energy generation policy needs to set clear environmental and health benchmarks in line with community expectations. It was thought that there should be a discussion of the role of advanced nuclear power as long as it could encompass these expectations.
- Ensure infrastructure provisions for cost efficiency
- Separation of the energy generation from the retail sector
- Ensure that there are strategies to assist the disadvantaged in the community.
In the end, the juries concluded not to support simply one source of renewable source of energy, but that all sources of renewable technologies have a chance to compete on merit.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The reports from the two Citizens' Policy Juries were included in the PAC submission to Parliament. Several of these specific recommendations were incorporated among the 24 recommendations presented to Parliament for final approval.
Both the Citizen's Jury of Sydney and that of Tamworth were highly diligent in their reports. Many of their recommendations were considered quite innovative. The NSW Government expressed its support and gratitude for the efforts of these two community groups.
newDemocracy state that the NSW government's response clearly references a number of the jury's recommendations .
Analysis and Lessons Learned
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 newDemocracy Foundation (2012). Citizens' Jury on Energy Generation. Available at: https://www.newdemocracy.com.au/2013/03/30/citizens-jury-on-energy-generation/
newDemocracy Foundation http://www.newdemocracy.com.au
Recommendations on energy economics and security in NSW - Sydney: http://www.newdemocracy.com.au/docs/Tamworth%20Citizens%20Policy%20Jury%20_%20Report%202012_FINAL.pdf
Recommendations on energy economics and security in NSW - Tamworth: http://www.newdemocracy.com.au/docs/Tamworth%20Citizens%20Policy%20Jury%20_%20Report%202012_FINAL.pdf
Legislative Assembly of New South Wales Public Accounts Committee: http://www.newdemocracy.com.au/docs/activeprojects/PAC_EconomicsofEnergyGenerationRep6_55November2012.pdf