Representatives of 14 councils from across Australia met in Port Augusta, South Australia last week to have a first-hand look at the clean energy transformation of the city.
Participating in the Climate Council’s Cities Power Partnership program, Port Augusta moved to a clean energy system after shutting down their coal power stations.
Local government officials from various councils in South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania travelled to the regional city to learn more about how this initiative could be replicated in their own cities and towns.
Jay Weatherill, former Labor South Australian premier and renewable energy advocate; Sam Johnson, former mayor, Port Augusta; Amanda McKenzie, Climate Council chief executive; professor Lesley Hughes, ecologist and climate scientist; and professor Andrew Stock, emerging energy technologies and renewables expert addressed the council representatives at the special Community Energy event in Port Augusta.
Speaking with the visiting officials in Port Augusta, Weatherill emphasised how supportive state policy and planning rules mobilised local governments and business to champion Australia’s renewable energy and storage transformation.
Attributing South Australia’s renewable energy boom to their strong state policy, he said they had 14 renewable energy and storage projects under construction or due to start soon, supporting more than 2,000 jobs.
Observing that the state generated more wind and solar energy than any other state, accounting for more than 50 percent of generated power, and was also a leader in rooftop solar, Weatherill added that the local and state governments, industry and community worked together to get them to the top.
According to Johnson, strong local leadership with support from the state government, attracted new jobs and businesses to the area where the state’s last coal-fired power stations were closed down.
“Just three years on, there are at least eight renewable energy projects in various stages of development in the Port Augusta and Whyalla region, supporting more than 850 jobs and approximately $1.5 billion in investment. This has seen our city thrive on cleaner power, less pollution and lower energy prices.
“The rebirth of our former coal town shows exactly what investment in renewables can do for transitioning regional towns. It’s fantastic to see the Cities Power Partnership bring councils from around Australia to inspire a renewables boom in their own cities and towns and put more clean energy projects on the ground.”
Observing how local and regional clean energy projects form a crucial part of Australia’s climate solution, McKenzie emphasised the need for a supportive state and federal policy to surge forward.
“Working together, local councils can be far more than the sum of their parts when it comes to tackling climate change and providing sustainable solutions for their communities,” she says.
“Following Port Augusta’s lead and coupled with supportive state policy, towns and cities around Australia can transform Australia’s energy landscape.”