In the context of the Australian federal system industry development will be influenced by the policies of each sphere of government. When announcing a set of policies in 1997 to develop the renewable energy industry the Australian federal government acknowledged the need for a cooperative approach between all governments and industry. The objective of this article is to analyse the government policies over the 1997–2007 period to promote the development of the renewable energy industry in Australia. The article highlights a number of factors that have served as barriers to the development of the industry. The research provides important insight into the difficulties associated with establishing cooperative national arrangements in areas of state government responsibility in the Australian federation. The lessons also inform the current debate on the policy initiatives needed to more effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions from stationary energy from the increased availability of renewable energy.