Australian cities make the shift to 100% green energy

A number of cities are using wind, solar, and hydro power to run government and other city buildings — and they’re doing it in innovative ways.

Australian cities make the shift to 100% green energy media 1


City of Adelaide leads the way with 100 per cent… | City of Adelaide

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City of Adelaide leads the way with 100 per cent… | City of Adelaide

How Melbourne helped pay for a wind farm to power the city

Sick of waiting for broader policy to change, the Australian city helped finance a massive wind farm by making a commitment to 10 years of renewable purchases. The city’s manager of urban sustainability explains how your city can do it, too.

How Melbourne helped pay for a wind farm to power the city

Melbourne becomes first city with all council infrastructure powered by renewables | Melbourne | The Guardian

40% of power bought at a fixed price while 60% a market-based price that is renegotiated every two years

Melbourne becomes first city with all council infrastructure powered by renewables | Melbourne | The Guardian


  • Melbourne assembled a group of local institutions and councils to enable group purchasing of a large amount of renewable energy

  • Sydney switched to entirely green energy in July 2020 and expects to save $500 million over the next 10 years

  • Adelaide is powering all city-run infrastructure through a mix of wind and solar energy

  • Canberra is offsetting its energy use by investing in renewable energy around the country

  • Hobart unveiled a number of innovative energy proposals, and is part of Tasmania’s goal to be 200-percent renewable by 2040


Communities across Australia are feeling the effects of climate change. From higher temperatures and more heat waves to droughts and heavy rainfall, the symptoms are already having major impacts across the continent.

Most Australian cities, led by capital cities, have made commitments to sustainability in some form or another. Common goals include reducing emissions, more environmentally friendly mobility efforts, more efficient energy use and for some, a move to operate entirely on green power.

But just as every city across the large country is different, with different landscapes, different cultural norms, and different types of business, each city is putting its own spin on the efforts. The results are a series of innovative approaches to purchasing, harvesting, and using renewable energy that communities around the world can learn from. In many cases, these initiatives are being driven by the local councils themselves, proving that you don’t need federal or state buy-in or funding to enact significant change.

Here’s how some Australian cities have made or are making the shift to 100-percent green energy:

Melbourne, VIC

In the footrace for the title of most sustainable city in Australia, $ Melbourne$  made big gains in 2019. The $ city became the first in the country to power 100 percent of its council-operated infrastructure with renewable energy$ .

Their efforts show how impactful a city can be in this field, even without federal government support. As $ Deb Cailes$ , then Melbourne’s manager of urban sustainability $ wrote in Fast Company$ :

“We’re tired of waiting for state and federal policy to move. So, we set out to find a new way for the city and other large energy users in Melbourne to take voluntary action to accelerate the removal of carbon from the grid.”

The result was the $ Melbourne Renewable Energy Project$ , a large-scale partnership between the Melbourne City Council and other local councils and institutions. Cailes explains:

“We decided to bring together a group of local governments, cultural institutions, universities, and corporations and collectively purchase renewable energy from a newly built facility. It’s a pretty simple concept, but revolutionary for the industry. And others should try it.”

A total of 14 parties banded together to purchase a 10-year energy deal at a $ fixed price for 40 percent of the power; the other 60 percent will be renegotiated at market rate every two years$ . The collective purchasing power broke through some of the financial challenges individual organizations face when buying energy; it also funded new job-producing projects like wind farms. And, of course, it $ transitioned buildings across the city, from street lights, child care centres and council libraries to banks, universities and the zoo, to renewable power.$ 

The 2019 purchasing group was a success, so in 2020, the City of Melbourne did it again, bringing $ seven large energy users together to buy renewable wind power$ . The resulting purchase will reduce emissions by 123,000 tonnes per year — the same impact as taking 28,000 cars off the roads.

By orchestrating bulk purchasing with private partners, committing to long term deals with energy providers, and facilitating access to renewable power for major energy consumers in the community, Melbourne has been able to drive impact beyond city-controlled emissions. The two green energy deals combined have reduced the city’s overall emissions by five percent, and have made progress toward the city’s goal of the entire city running on green power:

$ The City of Melbourne is educating and empowering large energy users to understand the role they can play in achieving our ultimate goal: for all of Melbourne to be powered by 100 per cent renewable energy$ .”

Sydney, NSW

$ Sydney$  set a target to reduce emissions by 70% by the year 2030. Thanks to a push to adopt green energy, the city’s now on track to hit that goal six years early.

In $ July 2020, Sydney announced that the city had shifted to run entirely on green power$  (about 75 percent wind power, and 25 percent solar). This energy is running all city-run buildings and operations, including Town Hall, street lights, pools, and more. It’s estimated that the new power deal will reduce Syndey’s emissions by 20,000 tonnes each year.

Three wind and solar farms are supplying Sydney with this power; one is using a new type of panel that harvests sunlight on both sides, and tracks the sun to capture optimal energy based on time of day. In addition to supplying the energy, these farms will provide jobs for the local economy.

At $60 million, this is the biggest energy programme of its kind among Australian councils. But the savings are expected to be massive: the city estimates green power will save $500 million per year over the next decade.

Adelaide, SA

Like Sydney, the South Australia capital city made the switch to 100% green energy in July 2020. The city is running on a mix of wind and solar energy through a deal with Flow Power. A wind farm and two new solar farms will supply the energy.

$ Adelaide$  will use this energy to power city buildings, water pumps, street and traffic lights, and more. $ The city expects to cut emissions by more than 11,000 tonnes per year — the equivalent of removing 3,500 cars from the road$ . This renewable energy will cut costs, too — the Lord Mayor’s office estimates $ electricity rates will decrease by about 20 percent$ . Says Lord Mayor of Adelaide, Sandy Verschoor:

“This partnership will not only save our rate payers money; it helps cement Adelaide’s international clean and green reputation.”

As part of its $ goal to be one of the world’s first carbon-neutral cities$ , Adelaide had already been leveraging solar power, having installed solar panels on municipal buildings so that facilities such as the Town Hall, car parks and the aquatic centre are self-powered through their installed panels.

Canberra, ACT

The Australian capital of Canberra (which does not have a separate city council, it is run by the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly) had been striving for 100-percent renewable status for nearly a decade. In October 2019, the city reached that goal, claiming to be the eighth city in the world to run this way. But in Canberra, and the Australian Capital Territory, “100-percent renewable” looks a little different.

Wind and solar farms power some of the buildings here, but not all. Most of the farms themselves are not located in the ACT. Instead, the $ government here funds renewable energy sources around the country to offset the non-renewable energy used in Canberra homes and businesses$ , many of which are still on the national electricity grid.

Hobart, TAS

On the island of Tasmania, $ Hobart$  has long been a leader among the world’s green cities. Sustainable measures have been championed heavily at the state level; in 2020 Tasmania announced a goal to not only be 100-percent renewable energy dependent in 2022, but to be 200 percent renewable in 2040. (The island would export unused power through an underwater cable.)

In 2020, $ the city released its new Sustainable Hobart Action Plan$ , a list of 42 initiatives, for community review and feedback. The plan includes everything from installing electric vehicle charging stations to When it comes to energy, Hobart is forward-thinking, and notes in its plan:

“The next generation of energy procurement is going to be about renewables, bulk storage, cost reductions, peer-to-peer power networks, understanding predictability, microgrids, smart networks and other innovations.”

Proposed initiatives include building a virtual power network in the city, where the city would purchase power from residents who have installed solar panels on their properties, developing innovative new city-run methods of storing energy, and supporting an open dashboard of real-time energy consumption.

Local governments can and should lead the green movement

It may be tempting to follow federal or state guidance when it comes to sustainability efforts, but as Australia’s cities demonstrate, a lot of progress can be made when cities lead the charge. Australia is one of the $ most urbanized countries, with the vast majority of citizens living in cities$ . This means that when cities switch to renewable power, it can have a significant impact on the country’s overall footprint.

But even without a concentrated urban environment, the innovative solutions spearheaded by Australia’s cities can be applied by governments of all sizes, whether by creating purchasing partnerships or powering town halls with solar energy.

Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, $ says it’s important for governments of all sizes to embrace green initiatives$ :

“We are in the middle of a climate emergency. If we are to reduce emissions and grow the green power sector, all levels of government must urgently transition to renewable energy.”

$ Cailes from Melbourne agrees, writing$ :

“The overarching lesson here is this: Communities everywhere can take an active role in securing their own renewable electricity supply by taking power into their own hands. Want long-term price certainty? Want to mitigate the risk of increased energy costs in an increasingly volatile market? Want to speed up the transition to a renewable energy supplied-grid for increased energy security?
Then try a similar model. It’s been a game-changing procurement model for us and the project team has actively encouraged replication of the model to other locales.”

Additional Story Information



Melbourne, VIC

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Sydney, NSW

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Adelaide, SA

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Hobart, TAS

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