Audrey Zibelman speaks on her mission in Australia.

Audrey Zibelman came from New York to head up the agency that manages the energy supply and plans the future of the grid in SE Australia. She is leaving at the end of the year with the master plan completed to replace most of our coal power with RE over the next 20 years or so.  She spoke for almost an hour about her experience in this process. This podcast is one in a valuable series of interviews with key figures around the world in the green energy revolution.

The most revealing part of the interview starts at the 25 minute mark.

The interviewer repeated a question about the motivation of the people who work in the RE movement. It came up in an interview with a major green energy reformer in Britain, Jon Brearly. The question was along the lines “was your priority the concerns of the users and the bills they pay, or the decarbonization of the system?”

Facing this dichotomy, Ms Zibelman explained that the bright young people who come to work in AEMO generally want to make a difference, and their primary concern is probably decarbonization while at the same time they want to help consumers and Australia.

Skip forward to 24.30 and listen for yourself.

Going back to the beginning, the interview starts with an account of her mission at the Moonshot team at “X” (Google subsidiary) to take a leadership role in innovations for the green energy transition.

Then some questions. What are the big technological challenges?  We are moving from a system with a limited number of devices delivering energy as required to a weather-dependent system with countless components that have to be integrated with sophisticated data systems. It is becoming a data issue.

What is the role of prices in the new market. Shelved for later in the discussion.

What will you miss most about leaving Australia? Such a friendly environment in the smaller community.

Your journey from law to energy.  After working in the Peace Corps, a desire to serve a community, not good at science.   Working for the AG in Minnesota, taking on monopolies. Energy is important, it involved economics, environmental issues, system thinking is required.  Exciting speed of change in the last decade.

Your time has been characterized by building coalitions and not being afraid to take on hard issuesHow do you handle complex issues in a difficult political climate with no bipartisan approach to energy? 

The reality is that 1. coal is retiring. 2. Wind and sun are now cheaper.

There is a huge appetite for solar (fancy that, given the subsidies). “It makes economic sense”.

We are focussed on consumers and also the large amount of capital that has to be invested. “We have an obligation to the consumers to get it right.”

The economics has worked for you.   And we have to deliver reliability and economy.

What about your time at AEMO and your move from private sector to public? My passion is to drive forward with new ways to do things,  being the agitator to get things moving forward from the old to the new. She signed up with Cumeo in New York to shake things up and change things.

Audrey was a whirlwind that hit Australia four years ago. The ISP will be your legacy, you have consulted broadly and what do you think will come out of that approach? The people in AEMO did not know how to be loud and effective. I told the staff we had to be advocates. We see that the market is not working and we are intervening every day, this is the problem and I walked into the middle of a major about the direction of energy policy when I arrived and met Freudenbeg, the Minister at the time.

I gave my people permission to play and innovate and work out what it will take to integrate the flood of new renewables. We want to make a difference.

AT 25 MINUTES. What is the priority, keeping the lights on or decarbonizing?

[The impression emerges that for most of the staff it is probably decarbonizing the sector.]

What about the movement in the space at present when BHP and BP et al are getting into the green game.

Young people don’t want to work with firms that are destroying the planet.

How much power would you like to have at AEMO?   In Australia the decision was made to split the regulatory functions into three. In the US the process was simpler with less division of responsibilities. There is also a Federal Power Act.

Working on the ISP got everyone in the room with  a common purpose, it took a long time to get to this point after progress was slowed by the adversial attitudes among the regulators.

The ESB was created to consolidate the approach. “Thank goodness for Kerry Schott who chaired the ESB.”

The Federal Power Act in the US gave more power to drive the regulators to drive market reforms. Central power in Britain made it easier there compared with our dealing with the states here.

You get into academic and esoteric debates. We need people with deep understanding of the many issues involved.  Moving to a system with no marginal cost, it is hard to make good investment decisions. Very difficult problem to solve. We can only get investment in dispatchable power with rewards for reliability in the pricing system.

Location issues. How can we get things built in the right places and how do we decide when to tap in to get power for hydrogen or our Tesla or our toaster? We are getting to the point where we can manage the load curve with smart metering. We are changing the business model from efficient allocation of resources to supply the demand in the direction of  managing the demand (the load curve).  Issues emerg like – How to manage storage (what storage?). Our customers are the utilities and their job as retailers is to manage the next step of distribution.

Gender in the energy sector.  Traditionally a male industry, we are doing better than most at present (Kerry and other CEOs among the regulators). A lot of our female engineers are coming from other cultures so we have to be sensitive to cultural issues as well as gender.

Concluding with some concepts – under or over-rated?  1.  The importance of ownership of the regulator. Over-rated. 2 the role of prices in the green transition. Under-rated.

And here is another one in the series Sinone Rossi, CEO of EDF Energy on Zero-carbon electricity. 

This week on ‘Energy Unplugged’, Aurora’s CEO John Feddersen speaks with Simone Rossi, CEO of EDF Energy, Britain’s biggest generator of zero-carbon electricity. Appointed as CEO in November 2017, Simone joined EDF in 2004 and had been head of EDF Group’s international division since 2015.

Listen to the episode to find out more about:

• Simone’s professional journey and his clarinet playing skills

• The Hinkley Point C project and its implications for the energy transition

• EDF’s plan for a green recovery helping Britain achieve Net Zero

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48 Responses to Audrey Zibelman speaks on her mission in Australia.

  1. stackja

    What powers the podcast?

  2. Roger

    Asked about the priority in AEMO – keeping the lights on or decarbonizing?

    “For most of my staff it is probably decarbonizing the sector.”

    Hello, Angus Taylor, COAG…are you listening to this?

    What do you think the priorities of your constituents might be?

  3. minderbinder of QLD

    Who was the air head that put this “not good at science”, peace corps member, foreign lawyer in charge of the most crucial energy supply sector of our failing manufacturing, challenged transport, and most expensive domestic electricity .
    A pox on the houses of all those involved , and just shows that we are in deep shit, with the way out almost impossible with an organisation dedicated to “decarbonisation” rather than cheap available energy supply. FFS is there no end to official moronic behaviour in the country?

  4. Tel

    The reality is that 1. coal is retiring. 2. Wind and sun are now cheaper.

    Great! Lets get rid of the LRET since it is no longer necessary, with how wind and solar as so cheap.

  5. What a clusterfuck.

    Peace corps lawyers.

    Sure. Why not get a plumber to contest a will for you at the Supreme Court!?

  6. Thaddeus

    Point taken but a bit hard on plumbers!

  7. miltonf

    A Clinton lover fr0m Noo York imported by Trumble.

  8. miltonf

    The LNP can never be forgiven for inflicting that foul little man on Australia. BTW did the Roseville branch ever succeed in getting him expelled?

  9. herodotus

    There’s your problem, right there. But back a notch – who appointed this person?

  10. Remind me what her salary was. Guaranteed high income job with no concerns about high power prices or manufacturing and small businesses having increasing costs.

    Perfect example of how the country’s leadership is leading us to ruin.

    “For most of my staff it is probably decarbonizing the sector.”

  11. herodotus

    Trumble! I should have known.

  12. miltonf

    Whose that other horrible stasi looking type appointed by trumble. Seems to a be a darling of the NSW libs.

  13. H B Bear

    Lucky the Lieborals are in charge. Things would be really grim otherwise.

  14. Mick Gold Coast QLD

    Rafe invites me to listen or watch the

    “CEO of AEMO in an Aurecon podcast”.

    I have no idea what AEMO or Aurecon is and I know not why I should. People are in such a rush that they have forgotten how to communicate clearly.

  15. H B Bear

    Fair dinkum. It is as Waffleworth was still in charge. Photios has won.

  16. pbw

    First an account of her mission at the Moonshot team at “X” (Google subsidiary) …

    After working in the Peace Corps, a desire to serve a community, not good at science. Working for the AG in Minnesota, taking on monopolies.

  17. Entropy

    Tel
    #3623428, posted on October 18, 2020 at 6:44 pm
    The reality is that 1. coal is retiring. 2. Wind and sun are now cheaper.

    Great! Lets get rid of the LRET since it is no longer necessary, with how wind and solar as so cheap.

    It’s one if those lies that get repeated enough it becomes accepted truth. Pointing out the obvious, if it was true why do we need the endless market rigging, subsidies and penalties, or indeed a “pwice on carbin” If solar and wind really was cheaper?
    You can see their brains lock up in cognitive dissonance at the thought. Because if forced to actually think about it, they would realise it was artificial bullshit.

  18. miltonf

    Fair dinkum. It is as Waffleworth was still in charge. Photios has won.

    Of course- the fact that Abbott wasn’t given a portfolio after Trumble departed was a signal from THE GROUP (aka ‘moderates’) to the right to fuck off. How much help did steggles get from the LIberal Party?

  19. Tel

    You can see their brains lock up in cognitive dissonance at the thought. Because if forced to actually think about it, they would realise it was artificial bullshit.

    Oh they know full well that it’s a load of BS … but the point is that when it’s so starkly out in the open they feel uncomfortable with nothing to hide behind and no way to quickly create a distraction squirrel.

  20. Spurgeon Monkfish III

    Fair dinkum. It’s as if Waffleworth was still in charge …

    Yeah, Bear – what a joke. 🙁

  21. alan moran

    Rafe,
    Heroics on your part to listen to it all. Wonder why she is hanging around so long rather than moving to the US to take up this new challenge. Wonder whether the departure was forced. Noted that the industry leadership is female only nowadays, a matter I addressed here
    And the industry surely has some holdovers from the days when engineers wanted to keep the lights on.

  22. Spurgeon Monkfish III

    Dinosaurstan is broken! 🙄

    Oh, gee, really, Perfessser – who’da thunk it!

  23. RobK

    Great! Lets get rid of the LRET since it is no longer necessary, with how wind and solar as so cheap.
    The subsidies are backed in until 2030 for the existing parasites.
    The sooner the government gets out of this quagmire of mirrors and hidden costs to consumers the better.
    There’s a barrage of expensive enabling infrastructure coming our way very fast to facilitate deeper penetration of variable weather dependent distributed generating capacity that will use the infrastructure on a casual opportunistic basis.

  24. RobK

    We are already on the hook for the next decade. Back out now.

  25. miltonf

    So was it hoWARd who started all this shit with the RET in 2001?

  26. billie

    Young people don’t want to work with firms that are destroying the planet.

    wow, that’s a matter of opinion, does any “advocate” ever consider there might be people with a vastly different opinion and direction to their “advocacy” and opinions of who is doing what to the planet?

    intolerent to any other view except their own which is naturally the correct, how typical of the left

    arrogant twats

  27. Rafe Champion

    How much help did steggles get from the LIberal Party?

    Known GetUp activists were joining Liberal branches in the electorate.

    A vocal body of Liberal party people in Warringah hated Tony for his conservatism.

  28. miltonf

    Interesting Rafe- I thought when you joined a branch you got sussed out to see if you had ulterior motives. Maybe not anymore.

  29. RobK

    The low hanging fruit for the grid to absorb RE is well and truly gone. Cost will escalate, notwithstanding the efforts to hide behind complex funding arrangements.

  30. miltonf

    So our electricity supply, an engineering marvel by people like Harold Conde, has been fucked over lawyers.

  31. miltonf

    Lawyers brought to you by the Liberal Party.

  32. Ben

    Good one Rafe. Zibelman is deadset hopeless. She’s made AEMO into her own image. Bloody German AEMO chief engineer is a plonker too – when you hear him on a podcast he’s like a kid with a new LEGO set – zero accountability, all about The Transition – (in fake German accent) very vell, let us just see how ve can fuck this up, shall ve? Bend ze knees!

    Imagine saying, in public, that decarbonisation comes before keeping the lights on… how arrogant can one person be? Maybe it was a condition of employment at her next role – throw a spanner in the economy of the only partly functioning democracy left on the planet… jeez i hope Trump wins.

    I note the WattClarity blog, always very careful to stay on the happy side of the RE lobby, is pushing the envelope a bit lately by talking about the issues rooftop solar is causing on the grid.

    RobK is correct – The Transition is never ending. It started with two decades of subsidies and market interference, the next two decades are being set up for continuous transmission build and more market intervention.

    We need a new deck of cards, this one is stuffed.

  33. Nob

    Follow the money.

    Nobody anywhere is investing in wind power that isn’t state subsidised in some way.

    Most often by imposts and cost barriers imposed by states on hydrocarbon producers and customers.

    It’s a totally parasitic relationship.

    The more they succeed in destroying hydrocarbon use, the more the “cheapness” of wind and solar evaporates.

  34. DaveR

    Now free to talk, she makes it clear she was on a idealistic green mission all the time. No wonder AEMO has drifted off mission since the days of previous head Matt Zema. Why didnt the Liberals act sooner?

  35. Rafe Champion

    The Liberals are snowed by their departments that are full of greens and quite likely their younger staffers are green as well, not to mention the overtly Green New Liberals including Zimmerman, Tim Wilson, the man from Wentworth and most of the party in NSW.
    On the upside, they are starting to admit in public that the grid is on the verge of collapse (if not stated in those words).

  36. Rob

    “Wind and sun are now cheaper”, a massive lie ignored by the Fourth Estate and repeated so often as to now be widely believed, will ultimately be revealed. With the horrendous cost of electricity destroying the lifestyle we Australians once enjoyed, who will care? A society on its knees and punch drunk under an avalanche of collateral damage won’t know what struck it.

  37. Rob

    BTW – It’s a great pity that the Fourth Estate doesn’t get its education from the school of hard knocks.

  38. Nob

    1. Media is generally ignorant on engineering matters and easily misled by technical sounding bullshit. Just print the press release, since they have no idea what questions to ask anyway.

    2. They are ferocious on “source watching” in case anyone’s ever worked for a fossil fuels company or whatever but never query the financial incentives being sucked up by wind and solar advocates. And let’s drop the “renewables” blanket. It’s all about , and only about, subsidised wind and solar. They’ll count hydro and biomass when it suits them and float useless tide energy schemes but it’s wind and solar they want the money for.

  39. Herodotus

    It’s not just the media who are ignorant of technical matters. The vast majority of politicians are too. This is the end result of channeling staffers with no technical background – just political “expertise” – into parliament.

  40. H B Bear

    All Australians are being bent over by Zimmerman. What a thought.

  41. Kneel

    “For most of my staff it is probably decarbonizing the sector.”

    I don’t care what your staff want, WHAT’S THE POLICY AEMO OPERATES UNDER?

  42. Whalehunt fun

    Hunting down and jailling is not enough. There needs to be physical punishment. Long term significant punishment publicised on social media so stupid people can live on terror at the thought of expressing their ridiculous RE ideas let alone act on them

  43. Allen

    “We are changing the business model from efficient allocation of resources to supply the demand in the direction of managing the demand (the load curve). ”

    In California we call that a rolling blackout. No supply, no demand, easy peasy lemon squeezy.

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