A united front through our energy transition

I’ve spent the past few days in Adelaide, immersed in all things energy transition. It’s been two years since the last Energy Networks Conference and the timing for this year’s event is impeccable. Energy is front and centre in our daily lives and increasingly the topic of conversation everywhere we look.  

Based on my own discussions this week, the energy industry is telling us: the transition is here, it’s happening quickly, and we’re on board for the journey. Although, we all know it’s not just a transition – it’s a complete transformation and we’re seeing disruption at all levels. It’s important to take a step back, view the challenge holistically, and make sure we’re tackling it as a united front. 

The right people at the table

To drive that change and achieve net zero, we need solutions that can only come from a diverse talent pool. And I mean diversity in every sense of the word. The more voices, the stronger we are at innovating and delivering.  

Laura Sandys CBE, our EN2024 international keynote speaker, reminded us to ‘make friends’ – that is, leverage the expertise of diverse thinkers outside of the energy sector. We may need to pull others in so we can absorb new thinking to deliver a fresh approach. This diversity of experience can open doors to solutions we might not otherwise have seen.  

Let’s keep these diversity discussions and initiatives happening – I know ENA will keep momentum. Recently, we partnered with Engineers Australia and announced our new ‘Women in Networks’ award, to ensure we both upskill and recognise the right people and ensure they continue to have a seat at the table.  

A just transition for all 

The energy transition impacts all people differently, and everyone should be brought along on the journey. Another of our keynote speakers, Ruby Heard of Alinga Energy and First Nations Clean Energy Network, issued a powerful call-to-arms for our transition to be underpinned by energy justice.  

In Ruby’s words, “Energy justice is the fine balance between the benefits and burdens of the energy sector”. And by shining a light on some of the energy injustices Ruby reminded us that it’s not just a problem for tomorrow, but rather one we must collectively address today and in different ways than before. 

So how can we ensure the transition to net zero is fair, equitable and provides value for communities and consumers? Again, that’s a matter we must keep at the forefront of our discussions and strategies.  

We must get to the heart of what customers need, rather than just thinking of them as end users. The traditional one-way flow of energy is no longer status quo, so let’s bring customers on our transition journey. No matter the session topic at EN2024, be it technical or community-focused, this theme has been resoundingly clear.

Keeping pace, but putting people first 

As Laura Sandys reminded us: our destination is clear, but the journey may be messy. So, let’s lean into this messiness and get comfortable with change – it is a transition, after all. And we have a long way to go. While this transition is a marathon, not a sprint, we should remind ourselves that incremental change is not enough to overhaul our entire energy system. While pilot-scale trials are useful for proof of purpose, we must look towards deployment at scale.

And while we embrace change, let’s ensure we take care of each other and put people at the heart of this transition.  

It’s also imperative that we celebrate successes along the way. So, I’m celebrating EN2024 – a great event, made greater by our members, delegates, speakers, sponsors and partners. We’ll share more as we wrap up in Adelaide over the next 24 hours, but my hope is that our delegates leave inspired, refreshed, and with a renewed mandate to unite in our shared challenge – the energy transition.