Industry News


The EESA NSW Annual Electric Energy Conference – an Overview

Sorted by Penelope Lyons


The conference was well attended with more than 160 people at the Dockside conference centre in Sydney. We had about the same numbers attending “on line” at a number of locations (particularly around NSW and the ACT) where they watched the live streaming of all sessions.

The overall feedback from attendees was very positive with the comments being that the content was very relevant to engineers working in the electric energy businesses as well as the many businesses that interact with and support these businesses. It was felt that the presenters did a great job in “setting the scene” for the changes occurring in the electric energy industry as a whole and the “things” that must be addressed for the success of Australia’s electric energy area.

Opening Session

Our first keynote speaker was David Swift - a member of the executive leadership team of the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO). He described how the National Electricity system is changing with a greater role for asynchronous generation, intermittent generation, embedded generation, and battery storage, both on the utility scale and behind the meter.

He went on to discuss how customers are becoming more responsive as the options and choices available to them to manage their energy needs expand. Conventional generators on the other hand are being pushed into a reduced role with some high profile retirements.

As AEMO improves their understanding of all these challenges, arrangements are being put into place to ensure security is maintained to continue provide a resilient power system.

Arrangements include:

  • Enhanced connection standards
  • Management of system strength
  • Arrangements for the provision of the new services required through markets and regulatory arrangements
  • Proof- of – concept work to support the introduction of new technologies and the provision of services from non-traditional sources

David indicated that the major challenge faced by AEMO is to then integrate all initiatives into an overall market design that will deliver reliability, security, sustainability and price. The Finkel Review recommendations provide a framework or blueprint for broader reform of the national arrangements. The future offers huge opportunities for innovation including:

  • integrating the management of the whole system
  • the deployment of new and emerging technologies
  • new applications for traditional technologies

Our second keynote speaker was Brendon Crown of Energy Networks Australia. Brendon discussed how Australia’s energy industry faced a crisis of public confidence during the last year, triggered by power system stability and security concerns, the Eastern Australian gas market crunch, a breakdown in intergovernmental agreements on carbon and energy policy and surging wholesale and retail prices. In this environment, the Electricity Network Transformation Roadmap released by Energy Networks Australia and the CSIRO provides a 10 year transition plan to enable a customer-oriented energy future.

He emphasised that this transition will require significant new technical, commercial and workforce capabilities within electricity networks as they become enabling platforms. He discussed the greatest challenges to implementing the Roadmap, the progress already being made and the opportunities for better customer outcomes through successful implementation He discussed in some detail the key findings for DER & the Integration of Renewables and the associated technical challenges and solutions and the resultant implications for Power Systems & Markets.

He discussed the rise of Microgrids & Isolated systems as a result of DER. He described in some detail the Roadmap Implementation & associated challenges

Paper Session 1 - New approaches to Network Design, Maintenance and Operation

  • Statistical Analysis of the Age Profile of a National Transformer Fleet. Julian Guild discussed how a comprehensive statistical view across a power transformer fleet demonstrates the need to take a balanced approach to procuring new equipment and taking affordable action to both manage failure risk and to extend the retirement age of existing transformers. He describe the statistical models and algorithm based tools that can apply new knowledge of when and how transformers fail statistically.
  • Traditional grids versus the grid of tomorrow: know thy enemy. Rob Corke discussed how the introduction of new “grid elements” must be accompanied by changes in the design of the traditional grid. He explored the different kinds of “stability”, and the fundamental physical principles governing how voltage, current, and power influence and are influenced by the physical dimensions of the system. He went on to show how best to integrate these new grid elements and their operating requirements into the “traditional grid”.
  • Addressing Renewable Connection with Conventional Distribution Switchgear: Protection Elements and Deployment. Martin van der Linde discussed how in years’ past, conventional overcurrent and earth fault protection executed by conventional circuit breakers was considered sufficient to address the needs of network protection, but with the rise and proliferation of renewable energy and other distributed generation sources today this is no longer the case. He described the new techniques of protection and automation such as Auto-Synchronisation, Synchrophasors and other anti-islanding techniques.
  • Development of an on-line tool to evaluate system operators’ decision-making skills. Neil Smith and Jaime Auton argued that the electricity supply industry is changing at a faster pace than at any time in the last 50 years. The tools for delivering appropriate asset management strategies in a more complex electricity network are well established, but in the past there have been no tools to determine whether system operators possess the requisite skills to manage the day to day complexities of operating these evolving power systems. They described the on-line tool that has been developed that allows the evaluation of system operators’ decision-making skills in this more complex operating environment.

Paper Session 2 – Microgrids and new types of generation and storage developments

  • Endeavour Energy’s Battery Trials. Stuart Watts described how Endeavour Energy is in the process of implementing two battery trials. The first is a customer battery trial of 40 customers in the North West Growth Area of Sydney to determine customer, technical and regulatory issues in utilising batteries at customer premises (behind the meter) to reduce peak demand. The second was a grid scale battery trial in the West Lakes Illawarra development area to understand the technical issues in implementing a scalable and relocatable energy storage solution that can manage peak demand and run as an electrical island for reliability purposes.
  • The role of Hydrogen in a changing Energy mix. Warner Priest described how with the onset of more renewable energy sources and the establishment of further decentralised micro-grid solutions, energy storage becomes a mainstream topic. He made the case for why Energy Storage needs to be considered in a broader context rather than just electricity storage. Energy security also becomes a major consideration when you view energy storage more broadly. He went on to describe how Hydrogen Storage has some significant benefits compared to other storage systems.
  • A dynamic solution to problems caused by high penetration of Distributed Energy Resources. John Wright-Smith discussed the problems caused due to large increase in the installation of DER (photo voltaic and small wind generation) on the distribution systems of many North American utilities. The problems caused include voltage flicker due to rapidly varying wind speed or cloud cover, and the inability to regulate steady state voltage due to rapidly changing generation levels and reverse power flow. He showed how the use of shunt-connected power electronics compensators directly connected to medium voltage systems at an optimal location can provide transient and steady state voltage regulation, power factor correction, or a fixed amount of capacitive or inductive reactive capability.
  • Energy Transformation Challenge - How Microgrids enable renewable energy and support distribution systems. Juergen Zimmermann explored two case studies around a grid connected Microgrid as well as off grid Microgrid system. He discussed how to manage the integration risk of a Microgrid using technology and designs tools to ensure an optimised microgrid design that maximises the return on the investment and minimises risk. For the off grid system case a solar/diesel/storage system was presented and sensitivities around fuel costs that impact the viability of a project were explored. The gird connected case looked at the value proposition of demand charge reduction and increase in supply reliability.


Paper Session 3 – Future business opportunities in the electric energy area and what engineers of the future will need to know

  • Energy Industry Sustainable Capability & the Role of Innovation. Craig Moody discussed The Australian Power Institute’s view as to why 40% of jobs that exist today will not exist in their current form in next 10-15 years and that 70% of the replacement jobs will come from people with Science, Technology, Engineering, Entrepreneurial and Math Skills. Future capability actions for engineers are to stay up to date with technology and abreast of future technology, increase commercial/entrepreneurial skills and be agile, innovative & proactive.
  • Integrating a risk based approach to engineering decision making.  Bill Tocher discussed the benefits/opportunities of applying quantified and other risk based assessment approaches to complex engineering problems, using the recent changes to AS2067 as a case study example. He indicated that electrical distribution earthing is among the more complex areas of electrical network design and testing. The introduction of risk based earthing design into electrical distribution has been met with consternation from the contestable marketplace and the distribution utilities, who across the country maintain an incredibly diverse, conflicting and outdated array of standards and terminology. He argued that the introduction of AS2067 should create sufficient motivation to drive some changes in this space, however engineers of the future will need to develop skills and innovate in this area in order to cost effectively meet accepted safety benchmarks and to further progress future standards.
  • Engineers of the Future.  Beer Opatsuwan discussed how as the energy industry continues to rapidly transform, many new business opportunities will emerge and pave the way for an exciting era of revolution for Engineers of the Future (EoF) to address. He made the case that more than ever, EoF need systems engineering thinking capability integrated with fundamental electric energy knowledge. Tools such as Internet of Things and data analytics will become necessity to cope with the deployments of emerging technologies including battery storage, smart meters, electric vehicles, home energy management systems, PV, ICT etc. The complexity of the digital ecosystem requires EoF to possess more than just strong analytical capability. EoF need to emerge as entrepreneurs and community leaders. He suggested that the skills of EoF cannot be describe in a single word. Skills involve greater emotional intelligence, dynamism, agility, resilience and flexibility through a disciplined lifelong learning process.
  • Operational Considerations When Connecting Renewable Generation.  Darren Spoor made the point that there is an ever growing number of renewable generators connecting to the transmission and distribution systems in New South Wales. In many cases, these are connecting to the weakest parts of the network as these locations correlate well with good renewable energy sources, and often involve reduced real estate costs. Connections in these locations may appear straightforward at first, but it is necessary to carefully consider the technical envelope of weak power system networks. His presentation discussed the aspects of the weak system technical envelope and explained why special protection schemes are almost always required in order to enable generation under planned outage and some normal operating conditions. Failure to consider these aspects can either result in damage to the network or alternatively impose onerous constraints on the new generation sources.

Overall Summary

Our Annual Electric Energy Conference had the theme – “Examining the evolution occurring across the electric energy area for a better understanding of the many opportunities and threats” and the speakers covered many of the key issues impacting the electric energy and associated businesses in the short to medium term and as well discussed the opportunities that might be available for existing and new players.

We saw that the change in mix of electricity generation requires new methods for managing system security (i.e. frequency, stability etc) and in addition, the dynamic behaviour of the distribution system provides new challenges for effective transmission and distribution network planning and operation.

In the networks of the future we saw that advanced network planning and operation together with intelligent systems will be required to ensure the safe and efficient integration of large scale renewable generation, micro-grids and customer distributed energy resources via electricity networks.

Customer choices are more directly driving investment trends by increasingly valuing services that use energy (e.g., home heating, cooling, water heating, pool pumps, etc.). We are seeing a step change in how customers participate in meeting their energy supply and demand requirements through distributed resources (i.e. solar panels, electric vehicles, home energy automation and storage). The economic incentives provided by more efficient tariffs implemented with smart meters will also drive these changes.

Jeff Allen for the NSW Annual Conference Committee

Monday, 11 September 2017