Securing Australia’s energy future on the path to net zero

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The new CEO of the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has used a forum sponsored by Nous Group to outline his goal of an energy grid capable of handling periods in which all electricity is generated from renewables by 2025.

Daniel Westerman, who took over leadership of AEMO two months ago, was speaking at a CEDA event sponsored by Nous Group in Melbourne on 14 July. The forum, on the topic “Towards NetZero: Securing our energy future”, was moderated by Nous Principal Richard Bolt.

“This energy transition, both globally and in Australia, is a kaleidoscope of technological, economic, political and societal challenges for all of us,” Mr Westerman told the lunch event.

He explained that Australia was undergoing an energy transition from analogue to digital, from few to many, from centralised to decentralised, from one way to two way, from emissions to no emissions and from fuel that costs to fuel that comes for free.

Owned by government and industry, AEMO serves as system operator, market operator and national planner for Australia’s gas and electricity system.

Mr Westerman said his goal in leading AEMO was “to harness the talents, capabilities, experience and know-how across the industry to engineer grids that are capable of running at 100 per cent instantaneous renewables penetration and to do this by 2025.”

Also on the panel was Christine Corbett, the Chief Customer Officer at AGL, who explained that about 80 per cent of consumers were concerned about the environment, driving the move to renewable energy.

“You should start policy considerations with the customer, and customers are getting on with it,” she said, adding that alignment, support for consumer choice and flexibility of system design should be central to Australia’s energy policy.

Speaking at the forum, Jeff Connolly, the Chairman and CEO of Siemens in Australia, said the country needed to make progress in commercialising energy innovations developed by researchers.

“We must make sure our researchers are incentivised to get going,” he said, urging the government and industry to identify a handful of research priorities in order to focus efforts.

Siemens has joined forced with RMIT to develop a Digital Energy TestLab that is enabling researchers to model long-term trends in the energy market.

Nous Group is part of Net Zero Australia (NZAu), a two-year collaboration to analyse how Australia can achieve a net zero economy by 2050. NZAu is a collaborative partnership between Nous and the University of Melbourne, the University of Queensland and Princeton University.