We attended the All Energy conference in Melbourne recently, persuading energy efficiency advocate Jon Jutsen to use his inside knowledge of the industry to interview on camera and via audio, three leading proponents in the energy space, Amy Keans, NSW Renewable Energy Advocate, AECOM’s Craig Chambers and well known advocate and author Alan Pears, on how they read the state of energy affairs in Australia right now.

You can read the high level excerpts, watch the video highlights or listen to the entire audio.

Alan Pears always thought provoking, discusses energy productivity, energy-efficient low-carbon buildings and the electricity market. But he also ranges into the huge improvements in life cycle impact work underway.

Lifecycle impact is becoming a big issue, he says. We are seeing amazing new developments in construction materials such as cross-laminated timbers, fibre-reinforced concrete, timber beams strengthened with carbon fibre, and aerogels that provide a compact solution to doubling insulation performance.

But while the commercial building sector has done well,  the residential building sector  gets a whack. He wants strong action there, such as restructuring the first home buyers grant to fund efficient and compact homes – forcing the builders to respond.

The electricity market is also not well set up, he says.  This results in expensive electricity and no empowerment for the consumer. It has led to a bizarre war between emerging technologies. Demand management, says Pears, has been massively underplayed. With discussions dating back to the early 90s, there has been little progression. Strong incentives on energy prices are required. If prices rise exponentially once a certain level of consumption has been reached, businesses will be mobilised into action.

Pears compares the energy regulators to weak and ineffective parents who through their inaction provide a strong incentive for the players to push the boundaries.

Craig Chambers says the industry is moving in a positive direction after years of debate on climate change and carbon policy. Different challenges have emerged such as integrating renewables but positivity in this now vibrant sector is creating investment.

The new industry will need to consider the consumer who now has more options such as installing solar and batteries. The rules from a holistic perspective don’t contemplate all the structural changes that are needed to manage the new-look system. The stickiness of change will take some years.

Making demand management work will take a multi-pronged approach, says Chambers. Regulated businesses need to consider how they can work with consumers to have more efficient use of and investment in that infrastructure. Technology and the ability of the network to utilise technology for demand management has been there for years but they haven’t enacted it. Timing is important. The stars need to align – public policy, investment need plus technology at the right level of maturity – to get to that point.

Chambers says that now we have a minister who is focussed on both environment and energy there may be an opportunity to link carbon policy with energy policy.

Regulated businesses are waking up to fact that consumers now have control. They have always considered it a one-way supply stream. Hopefully future investment will provide more efficient outcomes using the technology and the infrastructure behind the meter. Businesses are now being challenged by distributed assets to provide a ‘least cost’ solution. They risk becoming dinosaurs – they can’t increase costs and remain current.

To accelerate renewables, says Chambers, we need to look at locational and time value of the use of the network and use of renewables. Renewables tend to be intermittent – when the sun shines and the wind blows – and being able to shift that energy to where it’s needed is our new challenge. Batteries will be beneficial but only if we revolutionise tariffs and incentives to use that energy in a better way.

Chambers’ wish-list for improving the way networks operate include:

  • A greater focus on tariffs and movement beyond thinking price versus cost – e.g. start to consider the cost of serving the customer in a location and time sense
  • Trying to craft the distributed energy market
  • Better planning

 Amy Kean kicks off our videos with her declaration that the state of play in renewables sector is “thumping”.

Renewable energy is becoming as cheap of any other form of generation and is “a complete game changer”, she says. More renewable energy is being installed than any other type globally, she says in the video.

The community loves it too. A recent NSW Government survey, she says, found overwhelming support.

So why are federal policies not matching these trends? asked Jonathan Jutsen. Kean responds with a tactful comment that disruption requires a “mental shift” and it will take some people time to understand the future.

The building sector though, is one area of excitement, she says, with the drive towards net zero buildings promising to be cost-effective in many instances, and benefits for both owners and tenants.

Amy Kean is the NSW Renewable Energy Advocate. She told the audience, during her presentation, and Jon Jutsen that the renewables sector is “thumping”.

Renewable energy is becoming as cheap of any other form of generation and is “a complete game changer”, she says. More renewable energy is being installed than any other type globally, she says in the video.

The community loves it too. A recent NSW Government survey, she says, found overwhelming support.

So why are federal policies not matching these trends?  Jutsen asks. Kean responds with a tactful comment that disruption requires a “mental shift” and it will take some people time to understand the future.

The building sector though, is one area of excitement, she says, with the drive towards net zero buildings promising to be cost-effective in many instances, and benefits for both owners and tenants.

Watch the video highlights of the interview for key insights. The remaining two videos will be published over the coming week and we will also release audio files of the full interviews.

Watch the highlights and listen to the entire interview.