Climate Summit for Local Government

Sept 6-8, 2023 | Melbourne

There’s no denying it: South Australia’s continuing transition away from fossil fuels and toward investment in renewable energy shows that it is possible to provide a clean and reliable supply of electricity, create jobs and boost the economy – all in one fell swoop. Australia is one of the sunniest, windiest places on earth, so it’s no surprise that we are in the middle of a renewables boom. The transition is bringing with it billions of dollars in investment and hundreds of jobs, often to long-neglected regional areas that were previously reliant on fossil fuel industries.

Port Augusta, for example, is a former coal town that found itself in serious economic strife with the closures of its coal-fired power stations (the last of these closed in 2016). Three years on, there are 14 projects in various stages of development in region, supporting more than 2,000 construction jobs. Former mayor Sam Johnson says he expects the Upper Gulf region to receive $5bn in clean energy investment over the next five years. “My gut feel – and I’m an optimist – is that they will all go ahead,” he said. “They are different technologies and they are playing in different markets, so they are not competing for power purchase agreements.” The table below lists some of these diverse projects:

Winning the Race

Of all the states, South Australia has outpaced the rest in terms of supportive state policy and planning rules, which has motivated local governments and businesses to get on board the energy and storage transformation and leave fossil fuels behind. In data released earlier this year by the Bureau of Statistics about renewables jobs growth, South Australia saw the largest proportional year-on-year increase in employment (110%), driven by construction work on large-scale wind generation facilities. The country as a whole saw a 33% jump in jobs in the renewable energy space.

Growth is Happening Australia Wide As Well

Australia is powering ahead in its uptake of renewables with investment in large-scale clean energy projects doubling between 2017 and 2018. A report from The Clean Energy Council has found investment in large-scale renewables increased from $10 billion in 2017 to $20 billion in 2018, with 38 projects completed throughout the year.

“This…shows that business is well ahead of the government when it comes to transitioning to the new economy. This large-scale investment created almost 11,000 new jobs, many of which are located in rural and regional areas,” said the Climate Council’s CEO, Amanda McKenzie.

Australia’s steady march towards renewable energy continued in 2018, with all states and territories generating more renewable energy than the previous year and South Australia officially cracking 50% renewable energy. Some interesting points:

  • Renewable energy supplied 19% of Australia’s electricity in 2018
  • Fossil fuels supplied 81% of Australia’s electricity
  • All states and territories increased their proportion of renewable energy
  • Tasmania has the highest proportion of renewable energy at 95%
  • South Australia has the highest proportion of wind and solar at 51%