Renewable Energy: Urban Centres Lead the Dance in Australia?

Part of the Lecture Notes in Energy book series (LNEN, volume 23)


Australia provides great potential as a case study for renewable energy governance. It is a large continent with a comparatively small and highly urbanised population. It possesses enormous mineral wealth and is a major exporter of fossil fuels, but it also has huge potential for the exploitation of renewable energy. Politically, it is a country divided between those who support large-scale exploitation of fossil fuels and those who advocate that the nation should grasp the opportunity of its rich renewable resources to become a world leader in this field. The potential for renewable energy development has been recognised in some areas, with large-scale wind energy development in particular. But the great distances between energy sources and users suggest that the urban centres themselves should be examined as sources of renewable energy. Governance is complex, with three levels, Federal, State and Local, each exercising power and capable of influencing energy concerns. The key question which is addressed in this chapter is, in a regime with multiple layers of government, at what level is renewable energy development best promoted? We address the politics of energy in the context of Australia’s economy and governance arrangements. Drawing data from previous research carried out by the authors, we examine the potential of urban areas to generate and supply their own power from renewable energy. Using Hammer’s (2009) capacity to act theory we examine the capacity of local government to develop urban renewable energy. We seek to identify hesitations towards RE adoption in all levels. A critical question concerns whether bottom-up or top-down action is preferable.


  1. ABARE and Geoscience Australia (2010) Australian energy resource assessment. Government of Australia, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  2. ABS (2007) 2006 Census Quickstats. Australian Bureau of Statistics, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  3. ABS (2012) 2011 Census Quickstats. Australian Bureau of Statistics, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  4. Australian Government (2012) Energy white paper: Australia’s energy transformation. Commonwealth of Australia, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  5. Bai X (2007) Integrating global environmental concerns into urban management: the scale and readiness arguments. J Ind Ecol 11(2):15–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beatley T (2000) Green urbanism: learning from European cities. Island Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  7. Betsill M, Bulkeley H (2004) Transnational networks and global environmental governance: the cities for climate protection program. Int Stud Quart 48:471–493CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bulkeley H, Betsill M (2003) Cities and climate change: urban sustainability and global environmental governance. Routledge, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. Burch S (2010) Transforming barriers into enablers of action on climate change: insights from three municipal case studies in British Columbia. Glob Environ Change 20:287–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Burton D (2007) Evaluating climate change mitigation strategies in South East Queensland. Research Paper 11, Urban Research Program, Griffith University, BrisbaneGoogle Scholar
  11. City of Onkaparinga (2008) Climate change—climate change strategy: a community plan 2028 initiative—(2008–2013). City of Onkaparinga, NoarlungaGoogle Scholar
  12. City of Onkaparinga (2009) Community owned renewable energy project, Core Options Paper. Tabled at Council Meeting 15 December 2009, City of Onkaparinga, NoarlungaGoogle Scholar
  13. City of Playford (2012) Environmental Sustainability. Picture Playford 2043, Strategic Discussion Paper 4, ElizabethGoogle Scholar
  14. Coenen F, Menkveld M (2002) The role of local authorities in a transition towards a climate-neutral society. In: Kok M, Vermeulen W, Faaij A and de Jager D (eds) Global warming and social innovation: the challenge of a climate-neutral society, Earthscan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  15. Diesendorf M (2007) Greenhouse solutions with sustainable energy. UNSW Press, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  16. Dollery B, Byrnes J, Crase L (2008) Australian local government amalgamation: a conceptual analysis of population size and scale economies in municipal service provision. Australas J Reg Stud 14(2):167–175Google Scholar
  17. Droege P (2006) Renewable city: a comprehensive guide to an urban revolution. Wiley, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  18. EU (2009) Progress towards achieving the Kyoto objectives. COM (2009) 630 final. Report from European Commission to the European Parliament and the Council, BrusselsGoogle Scholar
  19. Giddens A (1993) New rules of sociological method: a positive critique of interpretative sociologies, 2nd edn. Polity, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  20. Giddens A (2009) The politics of climate change. Polity, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  21. Girardet H (2003) Creating a sustainable adelaide. Adelaide thinker in residence program, Government of South Australia, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  22. Government of South Australia (2012a) Development Plan - Onkaparinga (City), Sept 2012Google Scholar
  23. Government of South Australia (2012b) Development Plan - Playford Council, Sept 2012Google Scholar
  24. Government of Victoria (2008) State planning policy framework–Clause 15–environment. Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  25. Gurran N, Phibbs P (2008) Planning for sustainable change: a review of Australian local planning schemes. In: Gilmour T, Blakely E, Pizarro R (eds) Dialogues in urban planning: towards sustainable regions. Sydney University Press, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  26. Hammer S (2009) Capacity to act: the critical determinant of local energy planning and program implementation. In: Proceedings of the Urban Research Symposium, World Bank, MarseilleGoogle Scholar
  27. Hamilton C, Kellett J, Yuan X (2008a) Carbon profiling: an analysis of methods for establishing the local emissions baseline. In: Proceedings of the 3rd international solar energy society conference, AdelaideGoogle Scholar
  28. Hamilton C, Kellett J, Moore T (2008b) Resourcing a low carbon future. In: Proceedings of the international solar energy society conference–Asia Pacific Region (ISES-AP-08), incorporating the 46th ANZSES conference, Australia and New Zealand Solar Energy Society, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  29. Harrington L, Brown J, Ryan P (2006) Quantification of standby in Australia and trends in standby for new products. In: Bertholdi P, Kiss B Anastasiu B (eds) Proceedings of energy efficiency in domestic appliances and lighting, Proceedings of the 4th international conference, 985−997, LondonGoogle Scholar
  30. Hatfield-Dodds S, Denniss R (2008) Energy affordability, living standards and emissions trading: assessing the social impacts of achieving deep cuts in Australian greenhouse emissions. CSIRO Publishing, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  31. Kellett J (2003) Renewable energy and the UK planning system. Plann Pract Res 18(4):307–315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kellett J (2011) More than a roof over our head: can planning safeguard rooftop resources? Urban Policy Res 29(1):23–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kellett J, Hamilton C (2009) Decarbonising the local economy: planning for renewable energy in urban areas. In: Proceedings of the State of Australian Cities conference (SOAC 2009), Perth, Western AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  34. Lowe I (2005) The big fix. Black Inc, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  35. New Rules (2010). Merton rule–United Kingdom. Accessed 14 June 2013
  36. Pears A (2007) Imagining Australia’s energy services futures. Futures 39:253–271CrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  37. Rec Agents Association (2012) Geographical analysis of solar systems under the renewable energy target. Accessed 5 Dec 2012
  38. Sunter P, Hamilton C, Kellett J (2010) Renewable energy resource assessment for the City of Onkaparinga. Report to City of Onkaparinga, University of South Australia, AdelaideGoogle Scholar
  39. Wong P (2009) Australia’s contribution to a global agreement on climate change. Address to the lowy institute for international policy 20th April, SydneyGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Natural and Built EnvironmentsUniversity of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia

Personalised recommendations