Foresighting the future for Customers + Communities

The future of the energy system - ECA Forum

Energising Australians Foresighting Forum 2023

Energy Consumers Australia’s flagship Foresighting Forum brought together the energy sector to discuss key issues affecting consumers with the theme of “Energising Australians”. Leaders, decision makers, advocates and thinkers from across and beyond the energy sector explored the future of the energy system, the role of consumers in it, and the challenges and opportunities it brings.

Our Executive Director, Sabiene Heindl and Director Innovation, Amy Abraham attended the Forum in Sydney on 15 and 16 February. These are their reflections.

The Challenge

Energy Consumers Australia states that the challenge is “The energy system is moving towards a smarter, low-carbon future energy system. We’re seeing a shift from a system primarily powered by a small number of large generators to one with many smaller ones, distributed across our communities. In addition, the uptake of renewable generation means there will be times when energy is abundant and times when it is scarce.

These changes are creating challenges for the grid, and there has been a clear focus on ensuring the power system continues to deliver reliable energy supplies.”

Reflections on the challenge

While there are fundamental challenges to the traditional Tesla Edison model of the energy system, there are also many opportunities for consumers, particularly around Consumer Energy Resources (CER): electric vehicles, batteries and solar, microgrids and community batteries. Speakers from the United Kingdom and United States shared on developments in their jurisdictions including energy as a service, Living Labs, the platform economy and ways to ensure a fairer future through collaboration with the health sector.

The Focus

Energy Consumers Australia set the focus on What is less clear is the role that consumers will have in this future. Our current regulatory frameworks are not fit for purpose to support the active and constructive role we are counting on consumers to play to manage their energy use and generation to benefit themselves and the system.

We need to change our approach in two ways. First, by flipping how we view system problems and framing them from a consumer’s perspective, considering the barriers and constraints that they face. And second, by understanding the ways the system is, and isn’t, working for consumers.”

The future of the energy system

Increasingly, genuine consumer and community engagement is guiding the future of the energy sector because, “What got us here, isn’t going to get us there” (Marshall Goldsmith). The use of strategic conversation to listen to “voices for everyone” across First Nations, customers in vulnerable circumstances, small business and the agricultural sector is essential to the redesign of the sector to align with community expectations.

So, there is much to do and at the Energy Charter we are committed to doing it #BetterTogether. Only through collaborating within the sector and with other sectors will allow us to put humans at the centre of our energy system.