After spending a good part of the past two months abroad, I returned to the office this week with an invigorated enthusiasm to delve back into the realm of Australian energy. I was unable to return in time to attend the Australian Energy Week conference (either online or in-person), unfortunately. However, examining the media coverage and presentations from the event has helped me get back up to speed and offered me a rare opportunity to view the NEM, and the larger energy transition, with fresh eyes.
I’ve written this article as it provided a good opportunity to summarise coverage of the event, and to capture a few of my own notes from reviewing the conference from this outside perspective.
From the inside looking out
One of the large screens in our mock ‘war room’ wall in the Global-Roam office. It shows a schematic of generation in Queensland from ez2view, taken yesterday afternoon.
My decade-long involvement with Global-Roam has grown my interest in Australia’s energy transition. In early last year, I commenced my part-time enrolment in the Masters of Sustainable Energy program at UQ, aiming to enhance my skill set and broaden my understanding of the industry.
Whilst this blog and our Deeper Insights publications lend themselves well to ‘bigger picture’ written analysis, a key focus of our work here at Global-Roam involves helping our clients monitor and understand the ‘here and now’ of the NEM – and by that I mean, being able to see it on a 5-minute by 5-minute basis. This provides us with a real-time view of the system (and all it’s complexities), as opposed to the more common, external perception of the NEM that some others have.
From the outside looking in
Large conferences like the AEW event last week therefore provide a valuable point of reflection for myself to gain a wider view of the industry and to see the confluence of opinions held by others from different vantage points.
AEMO CEO, Daniel Westerman, gave a keynote addresses titled “Managing the tensions in the energy transition to maximise the benefits for all Australians”, in which he outlines these three ‘tensions’:
As I see it, there are three main tensions that AEMO and the industry must grapple with to maximise the benefits of this energy transition.
The first tension: between today and tomorrow
The second tension: between the parts and the whole
And the third tension: between people and populations
A full transcript of the speech can be found on the AEMO website – there Daniel goes on to elaborate on each on these three points, with specific examples of evidence that the AEMO have observed ‘from the control room’.
In my own personal view, Daniel’s words here are reminiscent of some parts of the “them and us” schism that we observed in our Generator Report Card back in 2018. I also believe that the ‘Villains’ that Paul has depicted in the past, have in some way, contributed to these tensions.
AEMC Chair, Anna Collyer’s keynote address covered the topics of ‘transformation, resilience and innovation’. Specifically her speech spoke of the several ongoing projects including changes to the National Energy Objectives (NEO) and Transmission Access Reform. Speaking on the NEO specifically, I note the following passage from Anna’s speech about the introduction of an emission reduction objective:
This brings a new dimension to the Commission’s decision-making. In future, we will balance emissions reduction outcomes in the same way that we currently balance the existing elements: price, quality, safety, reliability, and security.
But – also for clarity – this doesn’t mean emissions reduction trumps the other elements in the objectives. We’ll continue to balance all criteria on a case-by-case basis, and to look for the most efficient and affordable way to achieve our energy objectives, including in relation to emissions reduction.
A full transcript of the speech can be found on the AEMC website.
Media coverage and key themes
Much of the related media coverage of the event seemed to be centred around Daniel Westerman’s keynote address. I noted that the themes of ‘things are moving too slow’ and ‘more investment is needed’ were picked up on by the media:
Australian Financial Review
- Angela MacDonald Smith wrote The energy transition is far too slow, AEMO warns
- Mark Ludlow wrote Why Australia is stuck in the slow lane on the path to net zero
- Jennifer Hewett wrote How transmission woes are frustrating the building of renewable energy
- Ben Potter and Angela MacDonald Smith wrote Delay Eraring closure as ‘insurance’, says Transgrid’s Redman
- Patrick Durkin wrote ‘Profound slowdown’: Alan Finkel quits Victoria’s SEC
- Colin Packham wrote Australia’s energy industry was once optimistic but now it’s nervous and sceptical
- Colin Packham wrote Victorian state energy developer vows to accelerate transition
The Sydney Morning Herald
- Nick Toscano and Mike Foley wrote Power grid’s shift from coal at risk as green spending falters
- Giles Parkinson wrote “Not fast enough:” AEMO says renewable pipeline is huge, but stuck at the gates
- Rachel Williamson wrote AGL says Australia must build its own wind and solar components as costs rise, ports choked
- Sophie Vorath wrote “We need more batteries:” Networks look beyond poles and wires for cheaper, smarter options
This was all I came across from a scan today, but perhaps there was more from other sources?
Other things to note
I see that last week’s AEW conference coincided with two evenings of tight supply-demand balance, on Tuesday and again on Wednesday. We’re about to kick off the next round of analysis for our GenInsights Quarterly Update for Q2 2023 and will certainly look with interest at the data that arises from last week, as part of our analysis into the whole quarter.
Like me, others from our team were unfortunately unable to attend the AEW event in person. But from looking at the happy snaps on Social media, it looks like it may be worth us attending next year.
A number of members from our team will be in Sydney next month for this year’s edition of the CEC’s Clean Energy Summit on July 18 and 19. Whilst none of us are slated to speak, I am looking forward to the discussion to be had. If you are attending, please feel free to drop a line and let us know so we can say hi!