100 movers and shakers from the Australian Utilities sector met at the beginning of November at the Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort and Spa, Gold Coast, in a closed door environment to discuss the major changes that are reshaping the traditional roles of utilities, creating opportunities for new technologies, and how it is redefining the scope and character of the sectors interface with customers and communities.
Amongst the standout discussions of the three-day event were the keynotes delivered by Terry Effeney (CEO of Energex, Queensland’s largest electricity provider) and that of Peter Birk (CTO of EnergyAustralia).
The utilities sector is experiencing an unprecedented paradigm shift that holds promise of opportunity, but knowledge of significant risk, and Terry Effeney gave an insightful keynote informing the audience that during the next two decades the industry will see a gradual shift away from the traditional centrally focused "generation-transmission-distribution" paradigm to a more customer driven distributed energy resource (DER) model. Significant innovation will play a major role in the delivery of energy to customers in efforts to better align their economic requirements and the community's needs for improved environment stewardship.
The strategies for the future that Energex spoke of were based around utilising the existing infrastructure but needing to manage the assets, energy flows and work processes with twenty-first century technology which will provide, not only improved asset management and customer service, but provide a platform on which additional new technologies could be implemented.
Peter Birk on the other hand spoke candidly about the extensive smart grid program run by EnergyAustralia being at the forefront of innovation internationally. The program looks to the development and implementation of a range of grid and customer side solutions to make organisations more productive, improve their network reliability and to create innovative customer solutions.
In light of EnergyAustralia’s recent award in receiving the Federal Government's $100 million Smart Grid, Smart City grant it was fascinating to learn how EnergyAustralia will leverage its existing program to deliver the Smart Grid, Smart City. Birk explained that a key success factor for the delivery of Smart Grid, Smart City will be engagement with other industry participants and the dissemination of information with the broader industry, to ensure results from the demonstration are largely appropriate Australia wide. These comments were well received by the utilities sector.
With such change being faced within the sector, the key focus for the implementation of the smart grid is going to be change management to enable adaptation for the sector in the long term. It was a fascinating few days of discussion and debate, and the thought leadership provided by Terry Effeney and Peter Birk took centre stage through their informative and open keynotes that inspired the sector on the strengths of the smart grid for Australian Utilities.
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