The way we work and connect with each other has shifted significantly and it’s highlighted how much we rely on electricity and utility infrastructure in our modern society. Electricity plays an indispensable role; in our work, how we connect, heat and cool our homes, refrigerate our food, pump water to our neighbourhoods and operate ventilators and other essential medical equipment.
Aurecon works with clients across the full spectrum of the energy supply chain globally – from generation, transmission and distribution to retail – to help develop and maintain electricity systems to provide society with a comfort to keep us safe and connected.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen the business community flock to online message platforms and video conferencing to continue their work, as employees are sent home and real teams become virtual ones. Schools and universities are moving their lessons and lectures online to ensure that everyone still has unimpeded access to education and learning while physically isolated.
In this thinking paper, we explore the current challenges for the energy sector in its supply and demand for electricity, and even though it’s hard to consider the future right now, we touch on how sustainable and resilient energy systems help us overcome crisis situations.
The COVID-19 pandemic means our economies will be weaker, private companies’ balance sheets will have them rethinking their appetites for large capital works, and completion of some important energy projects, maintenance and upgrades may be delayed or even cancelled, potentially stressing our infrastructure even further.
But amongst all the doom and gloom, we must remember that the underpinnings of our electricity networks and markets are fundamentally extremely strong, borne off the back of many successive generations of system builders; designers, constructors, economists, engineers, regulators, operators and yes, even lawyers, that have been champions of 'good practice' and stewards of our critical energy infrastructure.
As our economy recovers (hopefully at the sooner end of projections), our energy infrastructure will ramp up to serve as the literal engine room of a powerful resurgence in economic activity. The future is bright, it's just at the end of a dark tunnel right now. In the meantime, we need to continue taking responsible measures to manage the challenges that COVID-19 imposes on our system. Let's take a look at what's happening currently.
Systems, assets, and projects within the Australian energy sector are inherently complex, and decisions made today will have impacts over the next 12 months to 5 years. Here’s what we know.
As people are forced to physically isolate, it’s electricity that is enabling us to talk to our families and friends, to keep educating our children, to work within distributed virtual teams to mitigate and overcome our challenges, and carry on some normality in our daily routines. These are the moments to reconsider our energy landscape and how it can serve our community best beyond this current crisis.
It’s hard to consider the future right now, as we’re understandably consumed with our situation today, but a more sustainable, distributed and resilient energy system provides us with the tools to overcome known and unknown future challenges.
Despite federal policy uncertainty in Australia, aets and mechanisms to transform the sector. Queensland is particularly active, with its renewed focus on its 50 per cent target, formation of CleanCo and March’s announcement of CleanCo's stake in the 1,000MW MacIntyre Wind Farm.
No doubt some energy projects will be impacted by a slowdown, but an economic response in the form of fast-tracking and supporting sustainable and resilient energy projects would both stimulate the Australian economy and provide households and businesses with low-cost and reliable electricity.
Any sustainable energy projects during and post the COVID-19 disruption wouldn’t be temporary. They would be making a lasting difference to building a secure and reliable energy system for Australia to overcome known and unknown future challenges.
This thinking paper is part of a collection of insights and expertise from Aurecon as it explores leading through and beyond the COVID-19 disruption. Explore our insights here.
Recognised as one of Engineers Australia’s Most Innovative Engineers in 2019, Ben McGarry is a forward-thinking innovator in the Australian energy market, having worked in energy strategy, infrastructure advisory, project development, project engineering and technology R&D roles in Australia and the US.
As Aurecon’s Future Energy Capability Leader, he leads a group of future-focused experts that develop strategies, policies and projects to embrace the opportunity and navigate the risks of the global energy transition. He is passionate about bringing diverse thinking and harnessing new technologies to solve challenging problems, particularly in our complex, rapidly-transforming electricity systems.
This article was originally published by Ben McGarry on LinkedIn titled, 'COVID-19: Reconsidering our energy landscape. Here’s what we know'.
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