CEO Welcome - Newsletter September 2023

05 September 2023

The energy transition continues to bring opportunity and challenges across the industry, with, Essential Energy able to help deliver the transformation of our power system, and in a way that benefits our customers and communities.

The need for significant investment in renewable generation, to replace ageing power stations due for retirement and to reduce emissions, is clear. Coal-fired generation makes up more than 64% of the National Energy Market’s generation mix, with 24 coal-fired power plants having a combined total of 23.2MW available capacity. *

All are forecast to retire between 2025 and 2051, with some bringing forward closure dates and others at risk of premature temporary or permanent closure.

In its whole-of-system Integrated System Plan, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) presents possible future scenarios. All of them involve a power system driven by renewable generation, distributed via the transmission and distribution networks. That power system also requires other forms of generation and storage to help ‘firm’ renewable generation, so that power is available at times when consumers need it irrespective of the variable nature of renewables.

Maintaining reliability and security of supply as our power system transitions is of critical importance to Essential Energy and each of our connected customers. In any electricity network, supply and demand must be balanced in real time so that frequency and voltage remain within defined technical limits and a secure supply is maintained to customers. New technologies and operating models are helping us continue to deliver power securely, safely and reliably. Communication is a critical enabler of this transition and our workforce is benefiting from satellite technologies like Starlink.

Distribution networks have a role to play in helping bring online renewable generation and related capacity that our power system needs. Through infrastructure that is already in place, technical capacity and capability of our people, Essential Energy is well placed to support significant increases in renewable generation that are critical to the transition.

Our understanding of and relationships with the communities we serve are invaluable to us and through initiatives such as community choices we seek to express our gratitude in a small, but helpful way. The role out of 160,000 LED streetlights across NSW by Essential Energy will help make our communities feel safer and help reduce power costs for local government.

There are significant opportunities in regional economic development and building resilient, sustainable communities who thrive through electrification, regional connectivity and equity of access to services and products akin to their metropolitan neighbours.

As the industry changes, we’re adjusting our business model and network operations to become more dynamic and integrated. By providing distribution services to meet the needs of our customers, we are:

  • Accommodating more flexible and integrated network and distributed energy resource and generation systems
  • Managing energy flows in different directions at different times of the day
  • Supporting microgrids, virtual net metering and peer to peer trading
  • Providing alternative demand management solutions, for individual customers and for whole communities
  • Improving the resilience of our network so that it is more capable of withstanding extreme weather events.

We are positioning our distribution network at the centre of the evolving energy ecosystem and driving value for the households and businesses we serve. Delivered through a five-year implementation roadmap, our corporate strategy involves optimising existing asset utilisation, facilitating grid connections and additional load on our network, reducing barriers to electric vehicle adoption and empowering communities to share and use energy, while maintaining downward pressure on network charges. As we do this, we are engaging with government, regulators, other industry participants and consumer advocacy bodies and involving our customers in decision making, asking them to help achieve an affordable transition to a decarbonised future.

And our workforce must grow and evolve so that we have the best people to deliver this strategy. That involves being able to attract and retain the best talent.

I am proud that Essential Energy recently joined the Champions of Change Coalition, which was founded by Elizabeth Broderick AO in 2010 and includes 260 CEOs working to accelerate change on gender equality. I will be working directly with 17 CEOs to advance gender equality and greater representation of women in leadership roles within the energy sector. I invite you to read more about this commitment in our Champions of Change story.

Also, our apprenticeship program continues to produce highly qualified and competent technical workers critical to building the power system of the future, and keeping the current system operating safely and reliably for customers. See story on apprentices

Finally, while Essential Energy’s network charges aren’t rising as much as other parts of the economy, we acknowledge significant price increases may be challenging for some customers, particularly given the cost-of-living pressures facing many households. Given the broader impacts of a high inflation environment, we understand that many customers may be facing financial hardship and encourage them to contact their retailer for support.

AEMO 2022 Integrated System Plan (ISP)
Annual generation capacity and peak demand - NEM

In this edition

Streetlight milestone - 160,000 LED lights installed
Connection available every time
Essential Energy receives AfMA Safety Award
Price rises mean customers need to shop around
Champions of Change Coalition commitment
Telco solutions to bring benefits to customers
Apprenticeship program key for Australia's energy transition
Community Choices - and the winners are...