Skip to main Content

The State of South Australia

The State of South Australia
1.7 million
A$90 Billion
The State of South Australia


GHG emissions (year): 29.5 Mt. For more info on the economic and political context, see below.

South Australia was established in the 19th century as a planned community, with an emphasis on civil liberties and religious tolerance; today its economy centers on the agricultural, manufacturing and mining industries, with growing financial and insurance sectors. 

Much of the region is arid and vulnerable to changes in temperature and rainfall that could be brought on by climate change. Over three quarters of South Australia’s absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are derived from the power sector. The state generates its electricity through three main sources – gas, coal and wind – which have 44%, 30% and 20% shares of the power sector mix respectively. South Australia’s wind capacity is one of the highest in the world for a sub-national administration.

The State Government has taken a leading role on climate change mitigation and adaptation, and is a co-chair of The Climate Group’s States and Regions program.

Since Australia has signed the Kyoto agreement, as a constituent state South Australia is obliged to reduce its carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2012. It has set its own ambitious goals to complement this target and to go further towards a long-term commitment to sustainability, including a target to reduce carbon emissions by 60% from 1990 levels by 2050. The government also adopted a target for environmental sustainability, to reduce South Australia’s ecological footprint by 30% by 2050

These targets are set out alongside strategies for achieving them in the South Australia Greenhouse Strategy 2007-2020. This document also outlines methods of climate change adaptation and a set of policies to encourage innovation in clean technology.

Statutory progress reviews on these targets are to be conducted every two years. The first review, in 2009, concluded that the state is expected to achieve its 2014 and 2020 targets, and proposed no amendments at the time. 

The Government has negotiated a set of formal cooperative agreements between itself and a range of organizations to engage them in helping to tackle climate change. These organizations include industries, community groups, business entities and regional governments.

Current Activities

Energy efficiency

South Australia aims to become a world leader in the creation of a carbon neutral built environment. As an example, it aims to improve the energy efficiency of Government buildings and dwellings by 30% and 15% respectively by 2020.

The A$2 million Building Innovation Fund was set up to demonstrate innovative ways to reduce the carbon footprint of existing commercial buildings. The Residential Energy Efficiency Scheme (REES) requires energy retailers in South Australia to meet their supply targets by improving energy efficiency in households. Suppliers are also required to deliver energy audits to low income households. Mandatory water and energy saving measures are now in place for new and existing homes. Solar hot water rebates allow low income households to comply with new performance standards.

The 30-Year Plan for Greater Adelaide sets out the state government's vision up to 2036 for the growth and development of this most populated part of South Australia and establishes the state’s key climate change responses.

Industrial sectors will be covered by the national emissions trading scheme from July 1, 2012, putting a price on their carbon emissions. On top of this, South Australian legislation has created sectoral agreements for formal cooperation between the State Government and specific business entities, industry sectors, community groups and regions to help tackle climate change.

Renewable energy

The state has now exceeded a renewable energy proportion of 20% with the South Australian Strategic Plan, aiming for a target of at least 33% by 2020. The penetration of wind energy in South Australia is among the highest the world.

With a widely dispersed population outside Adelaide and large solar and geothermal resources, renewable energy has the potential to meet the region’s substantial off-grid needs. To exploit the state’s significant geothermal power potential, over A$686 million in geothermal investment is forecast for South Australia during the period from 2002-13.

South Australia introduced the country’s first feed-in tariff to incentivize householders and small energy consumers to install solar panels by offering generous tariffs for selling unused energy to the electricity grid.

From 2008 all new major school construction work will incorporate green measures. This adds to the South Australia Solar Schools Program which aims to install solar panels in 250 schools by 2014.

Clean transport

The Government will increase the use of public transport to 10% of metropolitan weekday passenger vehicle kilometers travelled by 2018. In order to do this, it made a ten-year, A$2 billion investment into the metropolitan rail network, green buses and cycling infrastructure starting in 2009. In addition, half of the State Government’s vehicle fleet have used alternative and low carbon fuels since 2010.

Sustainable land use

The Government has planted over two million indigenous plants in Adelaide since 2003 and is on target to plant three million by 2014 as part of the Murray Forest program. The Government is also undertaking research into minimizing agricultural waste and testing the feasibility of CCS though industrial and biological means.

Waste management

The South Australian Strategic Plan has a target to reduce waste to landfill by 35% by 2020. Zero Waste SA was set up to reduce waste to the landfill by 25% by 2014, one of the targets also set out in the Strategic Plan. The Waste Strategy 2005 - 2010 has reduced the amount of waste going to landfill in the State by 17.32% since 2003-04 and continues to encourage responsible resource management.

International collaboration

In 2009 the South Australian Government established the annual South Australian International Climate Change Leadership Award to recognize and encourage leadership by regional governments in response to the challenges of climate change. Winners gain international recognition and have an area of South Australian urban forest named in their honor.

South Australia is a co-chair of The Climate Group’s international States and Regions Alliance.

Smart cities

Adelaide Solar City is a program to improve the efficiency of commercial buildings and to roll out solar panels as an energy source across whole districts.

More info

Devolved powers and competencies relevant to climate and energy

Land use planning, natural resource management including water allocation, limited taxation powers, public service provision (e.g. health and education), environmental regulation, and trade and commerce within the state.

Most important economic sectors

Key: agriculture, forestry and fishing, manufacturing, construction, financial and insurance services.
Growth: mining, defense, renewable energy and education.

GHG breakdown by sector (%):

Energy (with interstate electricity imports) 78%
Industrial processes 6%
Agriculture 16%
Waste 3%
Land use, change and forestry -6%
Other 4%

Current power sector mix (%):

Coal 30%
Gas 44%
Nuclear n/a
Wind 20%






Note: Remaining 6% provided by imported electricity supplies, solar, biomass and distillate.


Latest from Twitter