The recent Australian Clean Energy Summit in Sydney provided a platform for leaders in the renewables space to progress the industry into the future.
The future of Australia’s renewables industry was in focus at the Australian Clean Energy Summit in Sydney on 18-19 July, 2023. Hosted by the Clean Energy Council and run in conjunction with the Energy Next exhibition at ICC Sydney, the conference was a platform for industry leaders to share their sustainability and renewable energy vision.
Across the event’s two days of keynote speakers and networking, attendees gained insight into the ideas, innovations and policies driving Australia’s ambition to becoming a clean energy superpower. Presentation topics included decarbonising Australia’s industrial sector; large-scale hydrogen; First Nations engagement in the renewables industry; the importance of small-scale renewables; the transition away from oil and gas; offshore wind power; and growing the clean energy workforce.
The annual Australian Clean Energy Summit gala dinner was a highlight of the event. Hosted by Walkley-award winning journalist Jan Fran, the evening incorporated the 2023 Clean Energy Council Awards, in which the renewables industry’s high achievers were honoured.
The dinner’s guest speaker was prominent lawyer, academic, land rights activist and founder of the Cape York Partnership, Noel Pearson.
Women in Renewables Luncheon
Another feature of the summit was the Women in Renewables Luncheon on the opening day. The theme was mentoring, with prominent clean energy industry leaders speaking about the role of women supporting each other and fostering vocational relationships.
The event was introduced by the Clean Energy Council’s director of workplace development, Dr Anita Talberg, and featured panellists including session chair Victoria McKenzie-McHarg (pictured above, right), strategic director, Women’s Environmental Leadership Australia; Ruby Heard (pictured above, left), director, Alinga Energy Consulting; and Romilly Madew (pictured above, second from left), chief executive officer, Engineers Australia.
“Mentoring is a big part of our professional lives and in a small purpose-driven industry such as renewables in Australia it can become a really important part of our personal lives,” Dr Talberg told attendees. “This year, the Clean Energy Council launched its Women in Renewables Mentoring Program. We connected 40 industry leaders with 40 aspiring and emerging leaders who identify as women.
“The driver for our work in this space is the staggering statistic that the representation of women in our industry, which sits at 39 per cent across the whole industry, drops to 32 per cent in senior management roles, and just 19 per cent at board level.”
In chairing the onstage panel, McKenzie-McHarg stressed the importance of mentoring in fostering an industry where more women are in leadership roles.
“The evidence is abundantly clear that more women in decision-making roles equals better outcomes for the environment, climate change and clean technology,” she said. “If we want to see the scale of the energy transformation that everyone is exploring at this conference, we need to see women in senior leadership roles. That is across politics, government, business and community sectors.”
A highlight session on day one of the summit was “Shining light: The massive role of small-scale renewables in the clean energy transition”. This session was chaired by Jenny Paradiso (pictured above, second from right), co-founder of solar and battery storage company Suntrix. The keynote speaker in this session was Warwick Johnson, Clean Energy Council board member and founder of solar analytics company SunWiz.
The focus was on the role of rooftop solar and batteries in doing much of the heavy lifting in Australia’s clean energy transition. However, it was noted that households will need to prepare for greater PV system sizes – from the standard rooftop system size of 6.6kW to 26kW – as full electrification of homes and vehicles takes hold.
“6.6kW has been the habit of the solar industry,” said Johnson. “From research I have seen, households follow the recommendation of their retailer. But we will see significant upgrades as people realise what they have is not enough and they embrace things such as electric vehicles.”
Focus was placed on collaborative relationship building between industry and training organisations at day-two session, “Attract, train, retain: Industry partnerships to support the clean energy workforce”.
With the ongoing skills shortage in the renewables sector, there is growing need for collaboration between industry and training organisations to offer portable entitlements and transferable upskilling opportunities.
“The clean energy industry is in huge competition with every other industry in Australia,” said NSW Electricity Infrastructure Jobs Advocate Mark Apthorpe. “There are so many infrastructure projects happening around the country and as an industry, employees need to be the most valuable assets.
“There is an opportunity for collaboration between players we have not seen before. As we move to a new world of energy, there is an opportunity to go to a new world of managing people and working collaboratively.”