Are we energised to solve Australia’s energy crisis?

Finding a solution starts with courage and vision. But we need to realise we all have a role to play. The inaugural AFR National Energy Summit (in association with Deloitte) last week emphasised the importance of putting Australia’s energy crisis front and centre stage.

The comprehensive agenda, line-up of speakers and attendees provided a Who’s Who of the industry – everyone wanted, and needed, to be there to fuel a robust conversation.

Australia certainly has a natural advantage in that we have abundant fuel mixes and multiple sources. And as we transition to a renewable energy future, it’s not just one fuel over another, it’s a case of co-existing. The key challenge is to transition to a clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy market.

Across the two days there were a diversity of powerful insights for every business:

The market

The markets aren’t waiting. They’ve reviewed their risks, they’ve looked at their investment returns and they’re starting to make decisions based on engineering and asset life. Innovation and collaboration will be vital to drive change across the energy landscape.

When it comes to lifting our game, energy and demand management are key. Interestingly, the second day of the Summit revealed only four out of ten major companies have energy management plans. So there’s an energy inefficiency dimension to our whole energy solution.

For our digital energy networks, data in terms of consumption, asset and operation, is critical. The theme around a reimagined energy market place and grid edge innovations was fascinating. Who is leading the way? Well, Flow Power, Tesla, Reposit Energy, LO3 Power, Greensync, are all businesses taking energy to the local community.

Their examples reminded us of the increasing connection between community and power. It also emphasised the need to reframe what the narrative looks like around the connected customer, home and community – and of course the smart cities that flow from there.

The policy and politics

The interplay between policy and politics definitely stood out as a key discussion point at the Summit. I take the more optimistic view that from a policy standpoint we do have a blueprint and we do have an energy policy. It’s important to create a viable pathway for an orderly transition from our 20th century industry into a 21st century ecosystem.

As the future digital world unfolds, we need to realise that every single energy related decision we make now will influence tomorrow. Sentiment raised the fact that innovation and investor signals are key and the market rules might need to change.

Energy education is fundamental and we heard that there is a strong need for clear and cut-through communication to all sectors on the benefits and concerns of today. This is a responsibility of all members of the energy eco-system.

We all aspire to remove energy as simply the BBQ stopper conversation, infused with decades of blame. However, what was disappointing over the course of the Summit was how far away from that bipartisan support we seem. Australia deserves much better.

The customers

There’s a definite change in expectation around what our consumers are looking for and the value proposition in the relationship with our energy companies. It’s a situation that has not been helped by rising energy costs and prompts me to quote a famous line from the Summit – “consumers are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore.”

With a focus on customer centricity, it’s critical we listen carefully to what consumers are telling us. Alternative energy and grid-edge technologies will fundamentally change the relationship we have with energy. And what we’re hearing is consumers need simplicity, affordability and certainty.

The regulators

The National Electricity Network (NEM) has come under a lot of fire recently, but we heard it does actually work. Yes, it needs to be refreshed, it’s 20 years old. But the speed of disruption from new technologies in that time has been remarkable, so it is time for reframing the rules.

And we have the market mechanisms and frameworks from the likes of the Finkel Review, Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC), Australian Energy Regulator (AER) and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) available in order to reframe those rules.

Modernising the grid, dispatchable energy, modular and flexible locational-based pricing all lead to well-defined investment incentives which we need to get in place.

The future, now

So, can we solve this crisis? When you think about the courage required, the leadership, the vision, the consistency of thought and the political alignment, I do actually think that we can.

I’ve come away feeling really energised by what I saw and heard at the Summit. As an industry consultant, the modernising of the grid and hearing about all the innovation happening at the edge of the grid are really fascinating, and represents a redefined consumer relationship and a new level of competition.

The challenge for everyone, is to take a more proactive role in influencing the debate and many of the smart minds in the room at the Summit are the ones that need to drive that conversation.

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