Links to customer value – Future Energy Supply Strategies

Regulatory tests and security of supply –Sounds so elegant so simple when it is a strategic position statement or statements. Queensland gives some very good examples in recent times.

The first being the effort Ergon Energy put into the work to secure power supply upgrades to the ‘Granite Belt’ and that process started in 2011. It was abandoned 17 September 2014. What changed?

Then there is biofuel potential in Queensland. Why the focus on non-fossil sourced fuel now?

Then there are the Coal industry woes – China does not want the Galilee Basin coal type – it is too dirty for its cities!

Back to Ergon: After the Warwick Daily News headlined its story, 15 September 2014, “ERGON pulls the plug” – The story was quoting the Qld Energy Minister – Mark McArdle, as announcing the end of duplication of the Warwick to Stanthorpe power line and the controversy over the routes being selected. Ergon Energy then in a letter 17 September 2014 wrote to the landholders that were to be affected by the proposed duplication of the power line and formally advised they will no longer be effected. Clearly indicated for making the decision were the outcomes of the regulatory test(s). How could the regulator test find as it did to stop the project, even sway the politics of the project? Well, the key findings were:

  • The reliability standards changed on 1 July 2014. There is a heightened need to weigh the costs against the value to customers.
  • Existing demand is slowing and the evidence future demand will continue that trend if not further reduce. Certainly not inside the regulatory forecast periods.
  • Rising costs can no longer be blamed on rising demand predictions, that waste and excess must now be addressed for efficiency dividends.
  • There was very little to be concerned about with the reliability of the network as it stands now.
  • There is an edit the focus should be on affordability. That capital expenditure must be justified as needed.

Another way of putting all this is – Ergon Energy or any other supplier cannot get away with gold plating and excessive redundant equipment and infrastructure just because it gives them comfort – it must give value. How can you get value? You can improve the technology offering better monitoring, performance and be ‘smart’. The later is as simple as balancing the demand supply equation with incentives and/or implementing demand management strategies.

And, yes there is more: alternative energy supply is opening being touted as ‘planned initiatives’ What alternative energy? Call it what you like – clean, green or whatever. But what will stick is not only ‘proven technology’ as the descriptors now includes ‘likely technology’ of distributed type and ‘battery’ storage.

As an aside did you know as ‘battery’ can be a physical volume exchange as well as an electron store!

Does this mean technology will save coal? It is possible – but at the end of the day it will get down to the economics and it is not looking all that bright for coal as sustaining its position even for baseload demand.  Even our world partners are turning their backs on coal – it is now seen as too expensive in terms of the outlook, and the economics, the environment and the cost of the process to make it ‘clean’. Recent Chinese regulatory changes are testimony to that issue. Then there is the story -AngloAmerican boss sees coal mines closing at a rate of one a fortnight http://www.goulburnpost.com.au/story/2569015/angloamerican-boss-sees-coal-mines-closing-at-a-rate-of-one-a-fortnight/ … – no a good look is it!

Yesterday, 22 September 2014, in Canberra the Minister for Industry Ian MacFarlane addressed a biofuel forum on the strategy for Queensland to take the lead on bio fuel production. This follows a paper released through the Queensland University of Technology prepared by Corelli and Deloitte Access Economics. The paper called “Economic impact of a future tropical bioenergy industry in Queensland”. It talks of the ‘potential’ of new manufacturing facilities, and how biofuels can be used as an area of increased focus in agricultural strategy.

What all this means is that traditional energy is heeding a need for a strategic change of heart. Despite what is being said about business as usual, that is not the behaviour behind the scenes and increasingly it is coming to the fore that change is inevitable. The EUAA calls it a paradigm for the industry. The question is what part of the pack are we to become. Australia has always been world renown for finding solutions. What we have not been good at is getting things done, besides talk about it that is.

And, there is more: some government facilitations would assist in industry establishment. Not our quote, it is taken straight from the above papers key findings.

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