4 What are we doing about it?

The Australian and South Australian Governments are developing policies and programs to reduce the level of climate change by reducing emissions. Governments are also preparing for inevitable climate change by developing guidelines and programs to cope with change.

4.1 Emissions reduction in Australia

The Australian Government has submitted its official emissions reduction targets to the international climate negotiations. Australia has now committed to domestic emissions reductions of 5–15% or 25% (depending on the extent of international action) below 2000 levels by 2020. It has also committed to a longer term target of 80% reductions on 2000 levels by 2050. Existing Australian climate change policies, such as the Renewable Energy Target (DCCEE 2012c) and the Carbon Farming Initiative (DCCEE 2012d), are inadequate to achieve these emissions cuts. Emissions are expected to be around 22% higher than 2000 levels by 2020 without further intervention (DCCEE 2011).

Since electricity generation is Australia’s largest source of carbon pollution, the Australian Government introduced its plan for Securing a clean energy future (Australian Government 2012) in July 2011. The key element of the Clean Energy Future legislative package, passed in the Senate in November 2011, is the introduction of a carbon price, commencing with a fixed price from July 2012 and moving to an emissions trading scheme in July 2015. The carbon price mechanism will be linked to international carbon markets from the start of the flexible price period, allowing liable Australian businesses to purchase emissions reductions overseas. The carbon price will be supported by the three other elements of the plan: investing in renewable energy, energy efficiency and land-based carbon sequestration (DCCEE 2011).

4.2 Emissions reduction in South Australia

South Australia’s key existing emissions reduction initiatives are summarised in Table 9. Given the rapidly evolving nature of climate change policy in Australia, the South Australian Government is currently reviewing its climate change policies and strategies to ensure a fit with the national agenda. South Australia is also working to remove policy and regulatory barriers to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the state and to facilitate community access to funding from the Australian Government. South Australia is, however, increasingly moving the focus pragmatically from mitigation to adaptation, as efforts in South Australia and Australia are modest in a global context.

Table 9 South Australia’s key current emissions reduction initiatives



Impact and progress

CO2-e = carbon dioxide equivalent; LULUCF = land use, land-use change and forestry

Climate Change and Greenhouse Emissions Reduction Act 2007

To establish voluntary mechanisms to encourage and support action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the use of renewable energy. The Act includes a long-term emissions reduction target for the state of 60% below 1990 levels by 2050, and renewable electricity targets of at least 20% of electricity generated and consumed by 2014. The Act requires a state government commitment to the development of policies and programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, encourage energy efficiency and the commercialisation of renewable energy, and support measures to facilitate adaptation

Between 1990 and 2010, South Australia’s net greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 6%, mainly due to the contribution of the LULUCF sector (see Section 3.2). Excluding LULUCF, emissions increased by 4%. The renewable electricity targets have been achieved three years ahead of schedule, and this has slowed the growth in energy-sector emissions. Strong growth trends remain in the energy emissions of the residential, commercial building and industrial sectors. Road freight transport and industrial processes are also growth areas

Tackling climate change — South Australia’s Greenhouse Strategy 2007–2020

Provides a framework for meeting South Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions targets and commitments in a planned and coordinated way. Lists objectives, strategies and actions grouped by sector (community, industry, energy, transport and planning, buildings and natural resources)

Given the change in national policy, many of the actions currently in the strategy are undergoing review

A renewable energy plan for South Australia (2011)

Outlines the role of the state government in achieving the state’s target of 33% renewable energy by 2020 contained in South Australia’s Strategic Plan

Plan released late 2011

Electricity (Feed-in Scheme—Solar Systems) Amendment Act 2008

To encourage the uptake of residential roof-top solar photovoltaic (PV) systems through the provision of a tariff for electricity fed back into the grid

More than 100 000 South Australian households have now installed or received approval to connect solar panels. As at February 2012, PV systems made up 3% of the state’s installed electricity generation capacity (South Australian Department for Manufacturing, Innovation, Trade, Resources and Energy, pers. comm., 8 March 2012)

Residential Energy Efficiency Scheme (REES)

Establishes obligations on energy retailers (with 5000 or more customers) to provide energy audits and recommend energy-efficiency activities to South Australian households to reduce energy consumption. REES is given effect through Regulations made under the Electricity Act 1996 and the Gas Act 1997.

The objectives of the REES are to:

  • improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the residential sector
  • help households prepare for likely energy price increases resulting from carbon pricing
  • reduce total energy cost for households, particularly low-income households

Targets for energy efficiency activities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have been set. All targets were met in aggregate for the first stage of the scheme (2009–11), with 657 011 tonnes of CO2-e of potential future energy-related greenhouse gas reduction over the lifetime of the activities (ESCOSA 2012). The second stage of the scheme (2012–14) has a target of 1 million tonnes of CO2-e of lifetime energy-related greenhouse gas reduction. However, there is no obligation for householders to undertake the recommended activities

Various programs, including the Low Emission Vehicle Strategy, Sustainable Development and Climate Smart Precincts, Building Innovation Fund, Cool Roofs, and Mini Wind Turbine Trial

These initiatives are of a transformative nature and have the potential to substantially lower emissions in the longer term

To date, the most effective initiative to reduce South Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions has been the drive to increase renewable energy generation in the state. The Climate Change and Greenhouse Emissions Reduction Act 2007 has a target for renewable electricity generated and consumed to comprise at least 20% of electricity generated and consumed in the state by 2014.

In 2010–11, renewable electricity provided 22% of the state’s generation (Table 10; Figure 7), three years ahead of the 2014 target schedule. Wind generation capacity reached 1203 megawatts from 15 wind farms by the end of 2011 (South Australian Department for Manufacturing, Innovation, Trade, Resources and Energy, pers. comm., 8 March 2012). For 2011–12, electricity from wind reached 26% of generation, and 2.4% is estimated to have come from roof-top solar photovoltaic systems (AEMO 2012). South Australia’s success in this area is attributable not only to world-class renewable resources, but to the deliberate actions of the state government to tailor regulatory frameworks appropriately and provide investment clarity and certainty (Government of South Australia 2011a).

Table 10 Renewable electricity as a percentage of total South Australian generation

























Solar installation, Adelaide Showground

Department of Manufacturing, Innovation, Trade, Resources and Energy (DMITRE)

Graph of renewable electricity generation as a percentage of total electricity generated in South Australia, showing an increasing trend.

Sources: South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources; Australian Energy Market Operator (South Australian Supply and Demand Outlook), Electricity Supply Industry Planning Council (annual planning reports), ETSA Utilities (solar statistics for 2009–10), former Australian Government Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (solar statistics from the Solar Homes and Communities Program)

Figure 7 Renewable electricity as a percentage of total South Australian generation

The 20% target established under the Climate Change and Greenhouse Emissions Reduction Act 2007 has since been strengthened under this legislation and is reflected in South Australia’s Strategic Plan (Government of South Australia 2011b). The Strategic Plan sets a further target to support the development of renewable energy so that it comprises 33% of the state’s electricity generation by 2020.

In 2011, the South Australian Government recognised the need for continued state government intervention to achieve the 33% renewable energy target and outlined its plan in the strategy document A renewable energy plan for South Australia. This outlines the critical role of South Australia in providing complementary policy to support the Australian Government’s renewable energy investment programs and policies. Specifically, the principal roles for the South Australian Government are:

  • dissemination of detailed, timely and commercially relevant information to ensure that the investment market is fully informed of opportunities within the state
  • provision of efficient regulation and a competitive government fee-charging regime
  • intervention to address market failures created by specific regional circumstances
  • leading by example to establish an environment that builds investor confidence in renewable energy
  • acting early to position the state to benefit from imminent national policies and to better respond to cost impacts (Government of South Australia 2011a).

Many more high-quality wind resource sites exist in addition to those already developed. A number of further wind projects have been publicly announced, although none of these are yet under construction or committed to construction (AEMO 2011b). Significant potential geothermal prospects have been identified in South Australia (AEMO 2011a), and the state government continues to support geothermal research, exploration and proof-of-concept projects. Three of the most advanced Australian geothermal projects are located in South Australia: in the Cooper Basin, the northern Flinders Ranges and the Otway Basin. These sites are projected to supply energy to pilot electricity plants within 2–5 years (Betina Bendall, Principal Geologist, South Australian Department for Manufacturing, Innovation, Trade, Resources and Energy, pers. comm., 10 March 2012).

South Australia’s Strategic Plan (Government of South Australia 2011b), contains a target to limit the carbon intensity of total South Australian electricity generation to 0.5 tonnes of CO2-e per megawatt hour (CO2-e/MWh) by 2020. South Australia’s current electricity emissions intensity factor is 0.65 tonnes of CO2-e/MWh, including both South Australian generation and imported electricity (Table 11). This falls to 0.6 tonnes of CO2-e/MWh in 2010 if only South Australian grid generators are included.

Table 11 South Australian electricity emissions factors










Latest estimate

CO2-e = carbon dioxide equivalent; MWh = megawatt–hours

Source: Australian Government Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, National Greenhouse Accounts Factors (July 2012), Table 40: Scope 2 emissions factors

South Australian grid including imports (tonnes CO2-e/MWh)











South Australian grid generators (tonnes CO2-e/MWh)









South Australia’s Strategic Plan (Government of South Australia 2011b), contains a residential energy efficiency target to improve the energy efficiency of dwellings by 15% by 2020 (compared with 2003–04). This is through a number of state programs, such as the Residential Energy Efficiency Scheme (Table 6), 6-star energy efficiency requirements for new homes, managing energy use of air-conditioners and residential water heater requirements (Government of South Australia 2011c).

4.3 Adapting to climate change

Along with reducing emissions to limit the level of climate change, South Australia also aims to mitigate the impacts of climate change through planning and development.

Prospering in a changing climate—a climate change adaptation framework for South Australia (Government of South Australia 2010) was launched in August 2012. The framework aims to guide action in preparing for the impacts of climate change by government agencies, local government, non-government organisations, business and the community. It also aims to facilitate the development of more detailed adaptive strategies at regional, sectoral and statewide levels. A range of adaptation activity is under way across South Australia at a state government, local government and regional level. This includes the development of policies and plans that begin to address sea level rise, sustainable water supplies, natural resource management impacts, primary industry impacts and community health impacts. A wide range of research projects are informing adaptation responses for natural and human systems (DEWNR 2012).

Work is also taking place in particular sectors affected by climate change. For example, South Australia already has a comprehensive and integrated water planning system and expertise in water management technologies, which will form the basis for adaptation in the water sector. The South Australian State Emergency Service and key South Australian Government departments have developed an Extreme Heat Plan to ensure a coordinated approach to increasing community awareness, preparedness and response to extreme heat events (SA SES 2010).

Previous | Next