By Neha Madhok, Senior Campaigner
Adelaide is an Australian leader in the transition to renewable energy – and South Australia is a world leader in ensuring that this transition is one that includes working people.
While other politicians around the country argue about climate action, the people of Adelaide have been quietly leading the green revolution.
That’s why we ended 350 founder Bill McKibben’s Australian tour in Adelaide. After a week of travelling around the country talking to activists on the frontline fighting coal – from the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, to the world’s biggest coal port in Newcastle – Bill McKibben also had a chance to see the future of Australia. He saw a state being powered by renewable energy, that will lead the way for the rest of the country.
In Adelaide, we met the people running Precision Buses, who are building the transition story as we speak. This former car parts manufacturing factory is now building South Australia’s first electric vehicles. Despite the complete lack of incentives for electric vehicles by our federal government – as well active measures like the inadequate National Energy Guarantee (NEG) to keep projects like this from succeeding – Precision Buses is powering ahead.
We then took Bill McKibben to take a look at a project being led by the CSIRO. Our world-leading scientists (who brought us wi-fi, thank you very much) are now working on a concentrated solar thermal pilot project that will once again innovate renewable energy technology far beyond coal and gas. This is the technology that is being built in Port Augusta, a community rapidly transitioning from coal to renewables.
At the Accelerate Climate Action public event in Adelaide, Bill spoke alongside Lisa Lumsden from Repower Port Augusta.
Four hours west of Adelaide, Port Augusta is the gateway to the outback and has been almost exclusively delivering energy to South Australia for generations. It was not uncommon for fathers and sons to work alongside each other at the coal-fired electricity stations in the region. When Alinta Energy announced a shock closure, to take effect in May 2016, the town could have been completely devastated by the impacts.
The story of Port Augusta’s transition can’t be done justice in a short piece like this. Members of the union that covered both energy workers and NGO advocacy workers (ASU SA and NT Branch), worked with the membership in both of these sectors to try to build a brighter future.
Environmental campaigners stood in solidarity with the generations of energy workers who were about to lose their livelihoods and the people of Port Augusta organised their community for a better outcome.
While the transition from coal-fired power to solar thermal has not been easy, it is groundbreaking that it has happened at all. It required a willingness to work together from all who had a stake in the outcome, it took leadership and years of grunt work from community activists, and it took a state government willing to look to the future. The key lesson learned? If only this transition work had started earlier, fewer people would have been displaced by the closure.
At the Accelerate Climate Action evening event, we had 300 people at Elder Hall on a Friday night to hear first-hand about the community campaign in Port Augusta, as well as the fight for the Great Australian Bight to remain free of oil and gas drilling. By the end of the night, all 300 audience members were fired up to accelerate action on climate change.
Now, we’re building up a local 350 Adelaide group who are looking at the opportunities for divestment and getting ready for a global day of action on September 8: Rise for Climate.
As the story of Repower Port Augusta proves, real climate leadership rises from the grassroots up. That’s why in September we’re planning thousands of rallies in cities and towns around the world to demand our local leaders commit to building a fossil free world that puts people and justice before profit. Rise for Climate with us.