Australian Energy Market Operator CEO Audrey Zibelman speaks about reforming the energy system

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, New York City faced an “existential moment”. Let’s hear what the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Audrey Zibelman said about this crisis.

“Manhattan was half underwater,” says AEMO CEO Audrey Zibelman. The city needed an overhaul of its energy system and at the time she was newly arrived as the chair of the New York State Public Service Commission, overseeing the regulation and safety of the city’s power, water and phone utilities.

The task ahead was significant: If we’re going to build the power grid back, we have to make it more resilient, we have to make it more adaptable, we have to make it more efficient, we have to use technology better.”

In a speech to ARENA’s Innovating Energy Summit in Canberra, Zibelman recalls the lessons learned through that tumultuous time and how they apply to the Australian market, including the upcoming demand response trials with ARENA.

Watch her speech below, part of a series of lightning talks we’re presenting by leading thinkers in energy, and scroll down to see a further Q&A session with ARENA’s Phil Cohn.

Here are the four key focus areas according to AEMO CEO Audrey Zibelman:

1. Put customers at the centre

“We designed the electric grid in the 20th century not with the customer in mind but with engineers solving issues,” she says. “As a customer you don’t really care about what your network costs are what your retail costs are what your wholesale supply costs are, what you really care about is your total bill.”

2. Tackle information security

“All the information became transparent because market is around driving transparency and consequently the innovators could come in and say ‘oh, you’ve got that problem? I’ve got this solution.’ So rather than the utilities or the regulators holding information, the information becomes public.”

3. Encourage collaboration

“What’s really different now and what’s really different in the 21st century economy…is if you think that you are the only one who has the solutions then you’re probably wrong.”

“We collaborate, we learn, we don’t assume we know all the answers.”

4. Take risks

“As a former regulator, utilities always knew that if they did what we told them to do there was a 99% chance they would recover their investments. They weren’t risk takers. One of the things we thought was very important is that we encouraged proof-of-concepts. Learning how we use these technologies.”

“Another aspect of this of getting this to scale is we a recognition that we have to be willing to take risks, we have to work small. If you think about entrepreneurs they learn from something and they pivot.”

Read about the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) at their website.

This article was originally written by Dewi Cooke, Writer.