Martin Haese adelaide Lord Mayor
Martin Haese

Trust a small city with a legacy reputation as a rust belt capital to stir up enough competitive juices to take on the rest of country, and outperform.

Not in everything, mind, but in two areas that are probably the most important on the planet, if you buy into the need for clean energy and great technology to manage the coming environmental storm.

The city made a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2025 and the state has champed at the bit to turn to renewables and has at times achieved 100 per cent renewable penetration thanks to its huge wind turbine installations.

The state suffered blackouts last year after vicious storms but the intensity of that pain was doubled by the political storm that followed, with the federal government blaming the catastrophe on too much green energy.

Nonsense, of course, but enough of a provocation to have the whole country watch to see whether this small state would “make it” and succeed in its grand ambitions that could leave bigger states behind.

A few days ago there was good news. Elon Musk’s huge 100 megawatt battery was completed in the time promised, adding significantly to grid security.

And on Wednesday the City of Adelaide officially announced 10 Gigabit Adelaide, a fast fibre optic network in partnership with TPG that (need we say it?) will leave the National Broadband Network in its wake. At 100 times faster than the NBN there’s no polite alternative term.

Its supporters say it will give users access to data at phenomenal speeds, using global interconnects and cloud service providers.

Launching the network this week, Lord Mayor Martin Haese said the technology would be “a game changer for the city of Adelaide”.

“It will be a boon or local businesses and other organisations, but will also attract business from interstate and across the globe.

“I say to the leaders of organisations paying huge dollars for office space on the top floors of skyscrapers in cities like Sydney or Hong Kong, consider doing business in Adelaide instead.”

Haese had already flagged the announcement to The Fifth Estate in a recent phone conversation.

We’d wanted to check in on how his city and state were faring with their ambitious sustainability targets. There are a host of incentives for solar and energy efficiency. Were people taking them up? How is the close partnership with the state government going, given its focus on a clean tech savvy future, and given the hammering the state was copping from Canberra?

And how were the machinations shaping up ahead of next year’s state election in March? Would a new government change tack, or would Nick Xenophon, who switched from the federal government hoping to get the balance of power in his home state, tip the scales the other way?

Lego Adelaide demonstrates smart city potential. Image: James Baker. Photo: Keryn Walshe/South Australian Museum

The outlook’s good

Haese is not new to these pages. He’s appeared at green building events and he’s retweeted stories by The Fifth Estate, so we hoped he might speak a little more freely on the city’s challenges than he might, say, with the Oz or the Washington Post if they were to call (both owned by the Murdoch empire).

All the same we felt the topic of energy security might still be a bit on the sensitive side.

No need. Energy security should be anything but a sensitive topic, he told The Fifth Estate with gusto.

“It’s one that should be embraced nationally”.

There is no hesitation on where South Australia is headed, Haese says. It is positioning itself as a clean energy state and Adelaide will be carbon neutral by 2025.

And even with the drag from Canberra there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic.

Another big win to prove the strategy is paying off is the plan by high-profile British investor Sanjeev Gupta to power the Arrium steelworks his company recently purchased with solar, pumped hydro and a 100MWh lithium-ion battery.

Gupta has also acquired a controlling interest in Zen Energy, which has been big on renewable energy.

Haese says this means renewable energy is becoming “part of Adelaide’s DNA”, working from a reputational perspective and beginning to pay off.

Even better is the convergence between a strong sustainability agenda and technology.

“The two are inherently linked,” he says.

“So sustainability and the technology innovation story, which is rapidly coming to bear, and is rapidly evolving in South Australia, is now tangibly attracting investment and creating employment and driving innovation.

“It you look at the solar thermal plant and Gupta’s investment and lot of the other innovation and so forth, all creating employment, I would say that sustainability and technology on the national landscape are the two things that Adelaide is leading on.”

On technology, he says, the 10 Gigabit Adelaide partnership will allow data transfer at the rate of 10Gbps data for businesses throughout the CBD and along the main commercial strips in North Adelaide.

“It’s a private public partnership of sorts and entirely complementary to other data projects in Adelaide,” he says. “The proposition is quite straight forward – it’s the most robust in the country.

Decoupling, the holy grail, is underway

Haese says the partnership with the state government is guiding a lot of actions by the City, and starting to demonstrate wins for the environment in tandem with economic gains.

“Importantly South Australia can empirically demonstrate that we have decoupled economic growth from carbon emissions. We continue to have gross state product growth while carbon emissions continue to decline.

“And in some ways this is the holy grail.”

“We have good foundations but clearly there is a lot of work to be done.”

Among major initiatives from the council is the carbon neutral action plan.

“That’s a strategic action plan that drives operational outputs.”

There is the sustainable incentive scheme to provide grants to consumers and business owners alike with photovoltaics, LEDs, battery storage, electric vehicle charging points and building management systems.

These are all going “ really well” with take up accelerating (see details below).

Whether people do it for cost reduction or to curb emissions, it’s the same result, Haese says.

With Solar Savers the council helps low-income people with solar PV with loans paid back over 10 years.

The council has also put in the first eight of a planned 40 electric charging stations in the city on streets and in carparks.

Bucking the trend of building upgrade finance

On buildings, building upgrade finance (or environmental upgrade agreements) has been very recently legislated.

Haese expects SA will buck the trend of slow take-up of EUAs elsewhere, mainly because relatively high vacancy rates in B and C grade buildings in Adelaide will motivate owners to be energy competitive to snare tenants.

“We advocate very strongly for sustainable building practices in all forms and design, with double glazing and greening, and BMS,” he says.

And there’s more innovation to come, with the council itself demonstrating that energy savings can add up to big dollars – an energy savings program has reaped $1 million in savings annually for ratepayers.

“It’s leading by example.”

It’s economic as much as environmental

What’s driving sustainability, Haese says, is as much about the economic benefits as the environmental.

“We very much see the benefits need to be equal in terms of environment and economic terms. We’ve never shied away from that.

“All of these programs sit under the Carbon Neutral Adelaide plan. What we’re seeing unfolding in Adelaide and South Australia of course is the state with the highest renewable energy in the grid.”

And through this it is attracting the interests of global leaders such as Elon Musk and Sanjeev Gupta.

The next election won’t threaten the course

The next state election is in March 2018 and Haese says the council is working with both the incumbent government and the state opposition, cross benches and Nick Xenophon to “stay the course”.

“We’re in discussion with everyone,” he says.

And there’s no talk about the opposition winding back advances, he says (as there was in Queensland under Campbell Newman or in Victoria under the current Guy opposition).

To be fair, the state has never been big on coal so it’s not such a brave call for the various parties to be on the same tack.

Xenophon has yet to unveil his sustainability policy but Haese is confident that sustainability and energy reduction will be an enduring story for his city and state for a single big reason – because, in concert with technology, they drive down costs.

“Sustainability and technology are joined at the hip,” he says.

And that’s the kind of relationship that will drive progress, just like that of this city council and its state government.

List of achievements from Adelaide


The Sustainability Incentives Scheme offers rebates for city businesses, building owners, residents, tenants, sporting groups and community organisations within the city’s boundaries to install solar PV, electric vehicle charging points, energy storage or undertake energy efficiency measures. Jointly funded by council and the state government the scheme has:

  • Received 280 applications, approved 216 application, with a further 50 pending
  • Paid out $409,376 in rebates for a community out of pocket investment of $2.8 million, with total investment for projects installed (including STCs) of $4.04 million
  • For every $1 in rebate approved, the community has invested $9.87 in sustainable technologies
  • Provided solar PV rebates to 117 approved applications with an installed capacity of 1.5 MW solar PV
  • Provided rebates for 34 applications for energy storage, with an installed capacity of 295 kWh

Since January 2016, the installed capacity of small-scale solar PV systems in the City of Adelaide increased by 50.2 per cent to 5.26MW. This is a 1.76MW increase in just 21 months. The target of is 15MW of solar PV in the City by 2021

Since the expansion of City of Adelaide’s Sustainability Incentives Scheme in July 2015, nearly 1.4 megawatts of solar PV has been installed on 93 businesses, office buildings, including the Adelaide Zoo. More than 1100 lights have been replaced with LEDs, and a total of 136 kilowatt hours of energy storage capacity has been installed in 16 homes or businesses. The City of Adelaide’s $275,000 investment in incentives and pre-commitment of $22,000 has leveraged over $3.56 million in private and Federal government investment in the City.

Current incentives include:

  • Up to $5000 for installing solar PV on buildings
  • Up to $5000 for installing energy storage in buildings
  • $250 per electrical bicycle charging point
  • $1000 per fast or $5000 per super fast electric vehicle charging point
  • $5000 per financial year for energy efficiency upgrades in apartment buildings – such as in large common areas foyers, pools and lifts
  • $1000 for LED lighting upgrades or installing energy monitoring upgrades
  • $1000 for hot water systems
  • $500 for rain water tanks for $3000 for communal rain water tanks in apartment buildings
  • $2500 for office tenants involved in CitySwitch who undertake a NABERS Energy rating


  • On 11 October 2016, the City of Adelaide endorsed Solar Savers Adelaide which provides up front funding for the purchase and installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems on eligible low-income and rental residential properties
  • 40 currently participating properties will repay costs through a separate rate charge over 10 years
  • South Australian company Cool or Cosy is the solar PV energy system supplier for the initiative

dSquared Consulting, a prominent city consulting firm offering Environmentally Sustainable Design and Sustainability advice is delivering a project to analyse the benefits that households will obtain from participating in Solar Savers


  • The City of Adelaide is installing 40 electric vehicle charging stations across the city, including 30 off-street in UParks and 10 in four on-street locations.

The Council’s Sustainability Incentives Scheme also provides up to $5000 for each electric vehicle charging point and up to $250 for each electric bicycle point that city property owners and tenants install


  • South Australia is a world leader in renewable energy and storage, with more than 52 per cent renewable electricity generation in 2016 and the recent announcements of the 129MWh (100MW) Tesla’s grid-scale battery at Jamestown, 8MWh (30MW) on Yorke Peninsula and SolarReserve’s 1100MWh (150MW) solar thermal plant at Port Augusta.
  • The Art Gallery of South Australia is now being powered with the help of large-scale batteries from South Australian company ZEN Energy. The Art Gallery has been fitted with the lithium-ion batteries through a joint state government-City of Adelaide initiative that is also seeing energy storage installed on the State Library and Adelaide High School
  • The City of Adelaide has also installed a 64kWh lithium ion battery energy storage at our London Road Works Depot at Mile End.
  • The Freedom Powerbank battery systems were designed and built at ZEN Energy’s manufacturing centre at Tonsley, after the company won a $1 million State Government tender to deliver the project
  • Also on the way is an additional 150kW Solar PV system on the London Road Works Depot that will add to the 30kW system installed last year


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