Expediting a renewable energy transition in a privatised market via public policy: The case of south Australia 2004-18

Michael McGreevy, Colin MacDougall, Dr Matt Fisher, Mark Henley, Fran Baum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


In the 14 years from 2004 to 2018, the state of South Australia underwent a sustainability transition that saw its privately owned and operated electricity system change from 100% fossil fuel generation to a position where 50% was generated by wind and solar. However, this transition has not been without controversy. Most notably, in 2016 and again in 2017, the state was hit with major blackouts that many powerful individuals and organisations blamed on the renewables transition. The result of these blackouts and the substantial political fallout from them was the formulation and release of a new energy policy in 2017. Via a series of interviews with actors directly involved with the formulation of this new policy and an analysis of other sources attached to the state's renewables transition, this article reflects upon the elements and motivations that made and continue to make the renewables transition in South Australia successful. In particular, the research shows that when renewables establish a critical mass of generation, they produce a path dependent trajectory that is difficult to alter. In conclusion, the experience of South Australia demonstrates a means by which renewables transitions can be expedited by public policy initiatives in a privatised market system.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111940
Number of pages14
JournalEnergy Policy
Issue numberPart A
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Changing path dependency
  • Renewable energy targets
  • Renewable energy transition
  • South Australia
  • Sustainability transition management
  • Sustainability transition planning


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