Perfect storm for energy networks: Sustainable Energy Association Chief Executive

A "perfect storm" is driving change in the Australian energy network according to Sustainable Energy Association of Australia Chief Executive, Kirsten Rose.

Speaking to a CEDA audience in Perth, Ms Rose said cost reductions, technology improvements and more active consumers are influencing the way energy is consumed and delivered.

"In essence the combination of falling costs, rising prices and the unstoppable forces of technology mean the network has a formidable competitor which is the consumer," she said.

Ms Rose said changes in the energy grid are inevitable and operators must respond quickly.

"Changes to this future energy grid are not only inevitable but are going to happen really really quickly," she said.

"How network operators, Western Power included, approach this transformation will be the difference in having that viable business model."

Future energy grids will be smarter with consumers and sustainable platforms playing an integral part, Ms Rose said.

"The gird of tomorrow is a whole lot smarter and flexible both in terms of where energy is generated and how that energy flows," she said.

"It will have a lot more distributed generation certainly renewables but also other types of onsite generation like co-generation and tri-generation."

Also speaking at the event Western Power Chief Executive Officer, Paul Italiano said future energy grids will be more customised and user specific.

"We will be seeing a different sort of network and probably a smaller network and more fit for purpose energy solutions for people at the edge of the grid," he said.

On the topic of regulation, Mr Italiano said new energy policies must be introduced and discussed to accommodate the changing nature of the industry.

"I think we will need to see changes in the regulatory framework in order to accommodate it but I don't think that's an unusual thing at all and I certainly don't think it's a sign of failure," he said.

Mr Italiano also said that it is unlikely a connection will be established between the WA and eastern network in the near future.

"Unless we see some profound change in technology, I don't think we'll see a transnational electricity link in the near future," he said.

In addition to regulatory changes, Mr Italiano also said operators must change their mindset so energy supply becomes better integrated with consumer needs and preferences.

"In order to remain relevant to our customers we need to shift our mindset away from been one of an operator of a network to one of an organisation that is adapting to supply a service to consumers," he said.

"The value that the network brings to consumers today is in ensuring the reliability of supply by sharing capacity between generators and consumers."

Additional speakers at this CEDA event included:

  • CSIRO Energy Flagship Smart Grid Partnerships Manager, Mark Paterson
  • Toro Energy Chairman, Erica Smyth