The State of South Australia

Population: 1.7 million

GDP: A$98 billion

Country: Australia

GHG emissions (year): 29.70 Mt

South Australia is a state in the southern central part of Australia. It is one of six states and two territories in Australia. The state has approximately 1.7 million people - the fifth largest population of the states in Australia. Adelaide is the capital city.

The South Australian economy is traditionally based on manufacturing, agriculture (food and wine) and minerals resources. The state is actively building on traditional strengths and committed to renewed strategic economic priorities in a changing global economy. This includes creation of new jobs and business activities in areas such as advanced manufacturing, research & development, clean technology and service based sectors.

Much of the region is arid and vulnerable to changes in temperature and rainfall that is projected to be brought on by climate change. Three quarters of South Australia’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are derived from the energy sector (including electricity generation, transport fuels and gas consumption). The state generates its electricity through three main sources – gas, wind and solar. Coal generation assets in South Australia were retired in May 2016. Additionally, in 2015/16 approximately 15% of the state’s operational consumption was imported through the National Electricity Market via the interconnector with Victoria.

  • Key Targets / Successes

    South Australia is taking a lead in targeting net-zero emissions by 2050 and prioritizing investment in low carbon industries and renewable electricity generation. South Australia aims to:

    • achieve net-zero emissions by 2050
    • establish Adelaide as the world’s first carbon neutral city
    • achieve A$10 billion in low carbon investment by 2025
    • achieve 50% of electricity production from renewables by 2025
    • improve energy efficiency of government buildings by 30 % by 2020

    The South Australia Government has taken a leading role on climate change mitigation and adaptation for over a decade, and is a co-chair of The Climate Group’s States & Regions Alliance. It is also a participant in the Compact of States and Regions, requiring it to report on its targets and progress through the NAZCA Portal. In addition, the South Australian Government became a founding member of the Regions Adapt initiative in December 2015.

    Since Australia signed the Kyoto agreement in 2007, South Australia adopted the first phase commitment target to restrict emissions to within 108% of 1990 levels as a state target (2008-2012). This target was achieved. In December 2015, the South Australia Government committed to a long-term target to reduce GHG emissions to net-zero by 2050, essentially replacing its existing reduction target of 60% from 1990 levels by 2050, established under the Climate Change and Greenhouse Emissions Reduction Act 2007. South Australia’s long-term GHG mitigation target is also complemented by an ambitious aim to make the City of Adelaide the world’s first carbon neutral city.

    These targets are set out alongside strategies to achieve them in South Australia’s Climate Change Strategy 2015-2050: Towards a low carbon economy, released in November 2015. This strategy focuses on climate change adaptation and policies and initiatives designed to encourage innovation in clean technology, low emissions transport and  behaviour change initiatives.  

    Statutory progress reviews on these targets and objectivess of the Act are conducted every two years, with progress reports being delivered by the Minister for Climate Change in the State Parliament. The latest progress report was completed in December 2015.

    The state government has negotiated a set of formal cooperative agreements with a range of organizations to engage them in climate change initiatives. These organizations include industrial companies, community groups, business entities and regional communities. The commitment to making the City of Adelaide carbon neutral is an example of these formal agreements, as the project is operating in unison with the Adelaide City Council local government authority.

  • Current activities

    South Australia is considered a global leader in addressing climate change. The South Australian Government is continuing to work with industries and the community to reduce the state’s GHG emissions and to take action to adapt to the effects of climate change.  

    Flagship initiative - Carbon Neutral Adelaide

    The South Australian Government and Adelaide City Council have formed a globally unique partnership to make the City of Adelaide the world’s first carbon neutral city. The initiative is designed to drive further emissions reductions, increase the demand for renewable energy, build the state’s green industries, enhance resource efficiency, improve waste management and facilitate the transition to cleaner modes of transport. 

    As a first step, the South Australian Government matched funding by the Adelaide City Council, to establish the Sustainability Incentives Scheme. The scheme provides up to A$5,000 in incentives to businesses, schools, residents and community and sporting organizations for the installation of solar photovoltaics (PV), battery storage systems, energy efficient lighting and electric vehicle charging points.

    As part of the innovative approach to reducing emissions, South Australia’s Low Carbon Entrepreneurs Prize was launched to encourage the development of innovative ideas aimed at cutting GHG emissions in energy, transport and waste. With a total prize pool of A$260,000, seed funding was provided for eleven low carbon ideas for Adelaide.

    The government is also using its procurement levers for the delivery of Carbon Neutral Adelaide and state-wide GHG emissions reduction by supporting low carbon electricity supply and service, low emissions government vehicle fleets and battery storage demonstration on government buildings.

    The government, together with the Adelaide City Council, launched an Action Plan to facilitate the transitions to carbon neutrality in the City of Adelaide on November 8, 2016.  

    Energy Efficiency

    To encourage energy efficiency improvements in the buildings sector, the South Australian Government has introduced a number of initiatives.

    A target has been established to improve the energy efficiency of government buildings by 30% by 2020. In relation to this target, the latest available data as at June 30, 2015 shows that the South Australian Government had achieved an approximate 22% overall energy efficiency improvement compared to the baseline 2000-01 year. The state is on course to achieve this target.

    South Australia introduced a Residential Energy Efficiency Scheme (REES) in 2009, requiring electricity retailers to meet energy efficiency targets with domestic households (with a particular focus on assisting low income and vulnerable members of the community). A total of 32,460 REES energy audits and 1,827,068 tons of GHG emissions reductions were delivered under REES between 2009 and 2014. A total of 245,087 households received REES activities or energy audits over this period. The scheme has now expanded into its second phase as the Retailer Energy Efficiency Scheme, which now also includes small and medium businesses.

    In addition, a number of regulations and standards are in place to improve energy efficiency in the buildings sector. This includes the mandated installation of efficient hot water systems (solar, gas and heat pumps) and minimum performance standards for air conditioners sold within the state. All new residential dwellings are required to meet a six star energy efficiency rating in the building code.

    To overcome barriers to investment in improving the energy, water or environmental performance of existing commercial buildings, the South Australian Government passed legislation in 2015 to implement a Building Upgrade Finance mechanism in South Australia.  Building Upgrade Finance will help building owners to access loans to undertake capital upgrades, and once operational, the scheme will address the issue of split incentives between landlords and tenants in leased buildings. The mechanism thereby helps to unlock investment in building retrofits to realize the associated economic and environmental benefits.

    Renewable Energy

    South Australia is leading the country in the uptake of renewable energy. Renewable energy generation in South Australia has grown from virtually zero in 2003 to approximately 41% in 2014/15, hitting the 2020 target of 33% six years early. This target was increased in 2014 to 50% of electricity generation by 2025.

    In 2012 in South Australia, wind generation overtook coal for the first time to become the second most common fuel source for electricity generation after gas.

    South Australia accounts for 35% of the country’s operating wind farm capacity and is a leader in the uptake of solar energy, with one in four households investing in rooftop solar panels. This increase in uptake of solar PV is partly attributable to the successful introduction of a premium solar feed-in tariff, the first in Australia, which closed in September 2013.

    These initiatives have had significant economic benefits and contribute to the South Australian Government’s target of achieving A$10 billion investment in low carbon energy generation by 2025. To date, A$6.6 billion has been invested with 40% invested in regional areas in South Australia.

    Clean Transport

    South Australia’s Low Emission Vehicle Strategy (LEVS) was released in June 2012 and is designed to capture the opportunities offered by new vehicle technologies in both the South Australian automotive sector and the community, whilst complementing investment in public transport infrastructure.

    The LEVS sets a target of 10% reduction in emissions intensity per kilometre for the South Australian Government’s light vehicle fleet by 2014/15 (based on 2009/10 levels). This has included a trial of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in the state vehicle fleet. The state is on course to achieve this target.

    A trial of diesel/electric hybrid is currently underway (improving the fuel efficiency of these bus vehicles by 20-30%). The world's first solar-charged electric bus, Tindo, also operates in the Adelaide City Council area as part of the free City Connector bus service.

    Electrification of Adelaide's rail network forms part of the State Government's unprecedented and ongoing investment in public transport. Together with the delivery of Australia's most modern train fleet, an electrified network will result in a state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly and efficient train service. Three lines have been electrified since 2014, and this will be extended to the remainder of the metropolitan rail network. Electrification reduces emissions associated with the operation of trains, as railcars use electricity from the state grid, with renewable energy providing 41% of this poweras opposed to liquid fuels such as diesel.

    Another aim of the LEVS is to increase in the number of hybrid electric and plug-in electric vehicles in the state. The South Australian Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure has supported this initiative by issuing grants, increasing the public network of electric vehicle charging stations. The Sustainability Incentives Scheme also provides up to A$500 for the installation of an electric vehicle charging controller by businesses and residents within the City of Adelaide.

    The LEVS will be revised in 2016/17 and is anticipated to focus on levers to rapidly increase the uptake of electric vehicles purchased and utilized in South Australia.

    In July 2016 the South Australian Government announced that the proportion of low emission vehicles (LEVs) in the State Government fleet will be increased to 30% over the next three years. The target will result in the number of LEVs in the government fleet increasing from 161 to around 2,000.

    Waste Management

    South Australia’s recycling efforts are among the world’s best – and the state now has the highest landfill diversion rate in Australia at 79%, and the highest resource recovery rate at 2,135 kilograms per person annually.

    South Australia’s Waste Strategy 2015-2020 includes targets to divert 90% of metropolitan construction and demolition waste, 80% of metropolitan commercial and industrial waste and 70% of metropolitan household curbside waste by 2020.

    Waste reduction and resource efficiency is an important area of focus in reducing GHG emissions in South Australia. A successful initiative in this sector has been the establishment of Zero Waste SA (now Green Industries SA). The agency has invested more than A$83 million on innovative, effective and well-targeted projects, helping councils, businesses and the community to reduce, recover, reuse and recycle.

    More than 25% of Adelaide’s metropolitan sewer waste water is collected, treated and recycled. A wastewater pipe network extends into the city to irrigate the Adelaide Park Lands, as well as market gardens to the north of the city and wine growing regions to the south for irrigation.


    In August 2012, the South Australian Government released Prospering in a Changing Climate: A Climate Change Adaptation Framework for South Australia.

    By the end of 2016, regional adaptation plans had been developed for all regions in South Australia. Founded on collaboration, the approach features partnerships between local communities and decision-makers, local and state governments and the private sector. 

    The formation of these plans is an important first step that has assisted regions in identifying key climate change impacts and vulnerabilities (within various sectors), enabling the prioritization of actions to adapt to climate change. Building on this achievement, the South Australian Government will be preparing an adaptation action plan in response to the regional adaptation plans.

    South Australia’s collaborative approaches to adaptation planning and individual regional adaptation plans have won state and national awards, including the 2013 National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility’s Adaptation Champions Award and the 2013 Resilient Australia National Award.

    International Engagement

    South Australia is the longest standing co-chair and a founding member of The Climate Group’s States & Regions Alliance.  South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has been a co-chair of the Alliance since 2012.

    South Australia was the first Australian state in which a state government and the capital city council both signed key international agreements on climate change, with the signing of the Compact of States and Regions, the Compact of Mayors (Adelaide City Council), the Under2MOU and the Regions Adapt initiative. These agreements commit the South Australian Government and Adelaide City Council to reporting on targets, emissions reduction progress and climate change adaptation actions annually, at an international level. In May 2015, the state Government submitted its first report under the Compact of States and Regions. In July 2016, it submitted its reports on the Compact of States and Regions and the Regions Adapt initiative.

    The South Australian Government has been represented at United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) international conferences, providing an important opportunity to collaborate with sub-national jurisdictions and other non-state actors to contribute towards the global effort and progress to address climate change.

  • More info

    Most important economic sectors

    The South Australian economy is traditionally based on manufacturing, agriculture (food and wine) and mineral resources.

    The state is actively building on traditional strengths and is committed to renewed strategic economic priorities, with the aim of creating new jobs and opportunities for business and communities across the state in areas such as advanced manufacturing, research & development, clean technology and services sectors.

    GHG breakdown by sector (%) – 2013/14:

    Energy (with interstate electricity imports) 72.9%
    Industrial processes 11.4%
    Agriculture 19.3%
    Waste 3.1%
    Land use, change and forestry -6.9%

    The Australian Department of the Environment reports that South Australia’s net GHG emissions, including emissions associated with electricity imports, and emissions from Land Use, Land Use Planning and Forestry (LULUCF) were 29.70 million tons (Mt) of CO2e in 2013/14. Net emissions were 8% below 1989/90 levels during the same period.

    Current power sector mix (%) at 2015/16:

    Coal^ 21%
    Gas 37%
    Nuclear n/a
    Wind 34%
    Solar 7%
    Biomass n/a
    Marine n/a
    Other n/a

    ^Coal generation assets in South Australia retired in May 2016.

    The above refers to the mix of electricity generation within the state and does not include the electricity imported into the region which is predominantly sourced from coal. South Australia's electricity grid is interconnected to the state of Victoria, and from there to the rest of Australia's National Electricity Market. The volume of electricity imported and exported is determined by a range of factors and varies over time. In 2015/16, South Australia’s combined interconnector net imports represented approximately 15% of the State’s operational consumption.

    South Australia has the lowest GHG grid electricity intensity profile out of all mainland states and territories in Australia (including electricity imports). The Scope 2 emissions factor in 2013/14 was 0.61 kg CO2e per Kilowatt hour (KWh), compared to the national average of 0.85 kg CO2e per KWh.



Facebook icon
Twitter icon
LinkedIn icon
e-mail icon
Google icon