Transforming the Energy Sector

Our Utilities Practice Lead, Rhubesh Goomiah shares some insights from Australian Energy Week.

I recently attended the Australian Energy Week 2016 conference in Melbourne, a new event designed to gather professionals from the Australian energy sector. It was an excellent opportunity to network with people from a number of organisations, ranging from the traditional energy generators, distribution companies, retailers and policy makers to start-ups, consultants and vendors.  

The plenary session over the first day of the main conference provided a good overview of the direction in which the industry is heading and I chose to attend the NextGen Energy ICT stream on the following day. Overall, the calibre of the speakers was impressive and included a number of CEOs and executives from major players in the sector.

The key thing that resonated for me was that organisations that capitalise on the vast amounts data at their disposal to stay ahead of the curve and gain a competitive advantage will have a significantly higher chance of surviving through the transformation of this sector. This topic was highlighted in several sessions during the event.

Throughout the conference many speakers spoke to the transformations within the industry and they can be summarised as:

  • Decarbonisation
  • Decentralisation
  • Digitalisation

Decarbonisation

The rise of renewables and the long-term transition from traditional coal-fired generation to technologies with a lower carbon footprint was discussed at length, especially during the plenary session. This is largely driven by the commitments undertaken by Australia and other countries at the 2015 Paris climate change conference to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Decentralisation

As in other energy conferences that I have attended in recent years, there was considerable debate around distributed generation, microgrids and what the uptake in solar PV and battery storage means for the future of the sector. Trends over the last couple of years have already forced the traditional network companies and large retailers to rethink their future business models and created opportunities for new entrants in the sector. These new players include retailers with alternative value propositions and start-ups offering innovative services around solar PV and battery storage.

Digitalisation

The NextGen ICT stream focused on digital transformation opportunities that energy utilities can leverage to better manage their assets and meet the growing expectations of their customers. Given that this digital evolution relies heavily on the use of technology, data and analytics, I was hoping to get some in-depth insights into what organisations across the sector are currently doing. Some of the sessions lived up to my expectations and I particularly enjoyed the presentation from one of the Victorian distributors. They explained how they are taking advantage of the smart meter data that they have collected to better respond to outages, proactively identify safety risks on customer premises and engage customers to participate in demand response initiatives. Subsequent discussions acknowledged smart meters as a key enabler of digitalisation, which is encouraging given the lack of perceived benefits that have surrounded so far the mandated roll-outs.  A few sessions also touched on opportunities for utilities beyond the meter, as the Internet of things gives rise to a range of interconnected smart devices and appliances in the home. However, at the end of the day, I was left wanting more, which was in line with the consensus that most Australian energy utilities are only at the start of their digitalisation journey.

At Altis, as we continue to grow our footprint in the energy sector, we are excited by the prospect of assisting our energy clients in both Australia and New Zealand through their evolution around the above three themes. 

To find out more about how we are helping clients in the utilities sector visit http://www.altis.com.au/utilities.html

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