There’s been a shift in emphasis towards long term sustainability in Western Australia’s energy sector, according to the manager of the New Energy team at Synergy, Krystal Skinner.
The leader of the state-government owned gentailer’s team focused on alternative energy solutions noticed the change when she returned from 12 months of maternity leave at the start of the year.
“It struck me how much things have shifted.”
She says there’s now an industry-wide interest in long term sustainability and making the transition to renewables whereas before the focus was purely on price.
The other difference is the customer is increasingly becoming front and centre as part of that change.
The opportunities and challenges of Western Australia’s isolated energy market
WA’s energy market and the national energy market are fundamentally very different, she says.
Because there is less fragmentation in the WA market there’s also more incentive to work together to harmonise the network, she says.
WA is also in a position of “innovating out of necessity” due to its isolation from the national electricity market.
This can be seen as an opportunity to use WA as a bit of a sandpit to test and learn and then adapt these lessons for much bigger markets, Skinner says.
Some of the big business opportunities in WA’s clean energy transition include better network management and virtual power plants so that renewable assets can be centrally controlled, she says.
The state’s rooftop solar penetration continues to rise, with uptake of behind the metre batteries also increasing significantly.
Although it’s not as “sexy”, Skinner says there’s still plenty of opportunities for customers to reduce energy use and make the most of time of use tariffs.
“We’re still seeing lots of customers interested in LED upgrades and other equipment upgrades.”
Her pathway into renewable energy
It wasn’t her original intention but Skinner has been working in energy for 12 years.
A journalist by trade, she started in customer communications and marketing – “that embedded within me a deep customer focus.”
“I’m passionate about the customer leading the charge and the industry responding to their needs –rather than dragging the customer along to my will.”
She then moved into various other roles at Synergy where was involved with the 2010 Perth Solar City program, which helped households reduce their energy consumption through a number of energy efficiency initiatives, including solar energy and some “pretty innovative technology”.
This ultimately led her into the new energy space. She now leads a cross functional of renewable energy experts, engineers, an accountant, a lawyer and marketing staff looking for new energy products and services that pose a commercial opportunity.
The fact that Synergy is owned by the state government influences her team’s strategic direction. “It’s a community owned asset, so we’re making sure we’ve got that trust and the mandate to operate. That drives a lot of what we do.”
“To my mind, we’ve got an obligation to our community that we’re managing a mix of assets that are sustainable and produce the best outcomes to the state and are also affordable, but that also needs to be balanced with affordability and stability.
“We’re making sure we get that right in the transition.”
The WA power provider is currently facing financial losses in the future due to a number of factors, including increasingly adoption of rooftop solar power by households.
The fact that businesses are taking advantage of subsidies and reducing their power bills is also a factor in the utility’s financial decline, according to the ABC.