Energy industry is having Kodak moment

Energy companies are facing their own Kodak moment, Synergy Chief Executive Officer, Jason Waters has told a CEDA audience in Perth.


“There is not today a clear end game business model for electricity retailing,” he said.

“It’s in a state of change and it will probably stay in a state of change almost permanently.”

Mr Waters said energy companies must be agile and innovative while continuing to produce energy efficiently and safely.

Discussing the future energy mix, Mr Waters said companies are now looking at how they can provide commercial customers with renewable energy options such as solar that have been available to residential customers for quite some time.

On the topic of batteries as an energy source, Mr Waters said Synergy are only a few months away from adding them to the energy mix.

“We’d expect to have a battery product available for wide retailing early in the new year,” he said.

Also speaking at the event, BHP Billiton Senior Manager Low Emission Technology, Kirsten Rose said the future of energy for the resources sector is wildly different and disrupted.

Ms Rose said organisations will be operating in a carbon constrained global economy with climate change a significant board governance issue for BHP.

“Our shareholders who own the organisation feel very strongly about it and are very clear about the fact they want us to be industry leading in our response to climate change,” she said.

It is important to integrate renewables into energy options especially into the grids, she said.

“The economic case for renewables is harder for us but it’s something we have to do and we have to do it very quickly,” she said.

“It’s the transition that’s hard for resources companies that are inherently about cost, productivity and safety.”

Changing the energy mix is about taking small steps that are scalable and implemented quickly, she said.

Australian Renewable Energy Agency Chief Executive Officer, Ivor Frischknecht said the industry’s focus is shifting to the integration of renewables into the existing grid.

“We want reliable energy when we need it to deliver the services we want,” he said.

“Figuring out exactly how we do that is our next big challenge, it is very much doable but to do so affordably and quickly that’s the challenge.”

For example, in off-grid systems such as batteries, how that battery is going to be accessed by companies and how consumers will be compensated for feeding energy into the grid will be key issues, he said.

“There’s no question that by 2040-2050 we will be living in an electricity system that is either almost or entirely renewable whether on grid or off grid,” he said.

On new energy grids, ABB Australia Global Centre of Competence for Microgrids Business and Technology Manager, Juergen Zimmerman said the mix will be determined by the economics and business case for energy sources.

“There will be a mix of different technologies around storage, around solar, wind that have to work together to come up with a new way or more sustainable way in providing the energy to certain sites,” he said. 

From a property development point of view, Landcorp Strategy and Innovation Manager, John Clifton said renewables and energy services are a key part of developing new industrial centres and masterplan communities.

Working with agencies and service providers is important for integrating new energy sources, he said.

“Private developers and builders in our industry can clearly accelerate or resist the rate of change in introduction of renewables into their products they’re offering to the market,” he said.

Mr Clifton said an important factor is how new energy sources can help drive down costs for government, households and industry.