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  • Writer's pictureLaura Wong

Power UP at Power and Utilities

In 2024 the API wants to bring more Power UP Students to industry conferences than ever before. We are delivering this through strategic partnerships with conferences like Power and Utilities, that sponsored five delegate packages for our students.

Industry conferences are critical in connecting students with industry and expanding their horizons on what is possible with a career in power. Below is a reflection from the five students on their experience at Power and Utilities in Melbourne.

James Riley

Aditya Gandhi

On May 7 and 8, I was fortunate enough to attend the Power + Utilities Australia 2024 conference with the Australian Power Institute. Covering a broad range of important topics, with fantastic panel and keynote speakers, the conference left me enthralled by the magnitude of problems the industry faces but also the exciting possibilities in solving them.

One of the early topics that really peaked my interest was on just how many skilled workers will be needed in the energy industry over the next 30 years and the contrast of this with alarming statistics like only 2% of electricians are female. It was great to see, however, the many organisations and initiatives working specifically to address these problems. Another key interest area for me was on the consumer side of power distribution, particular on increasingly important areas like consumer energy resources, fairness and demand flexibility.

One thing that struck me was the balance between being transparent and being easy to understand. Even in electricity bills now, many consumers don’t understand how the cost for all different items are calculated and this is only expected to become more complicated with emerging technologies. The opportunity here though, for consumers to use electricity at different times or even engage in vehicle to grid technologies, may allow for significant cost savings for consumers in the future. The role of utilities, generators and the government in guiding the future of the energy sector in Australia was also very interesting and important to me. Overall, the conference left me with a better understanding of the issues faced by the industry but with a sense of excitement and optimism of the potential to solve these challenges and make something even better as a result.

Adrian Frienberg

On the 7th and 8th of May, I had the opportunity to be a delegate at the Power and Utility Conference at Melbourne Convention Centre, as a student representative of API. Having been to a few power conferences previously, I was excited about this chance to attend another one, particularly as it was my first time getting to interact in person with other API students and staff as well. Flying in from Sydney on the morning of the 7th, I headed straight to the convention where I got my bearings and had a look through the itinerary again to inform which talks I’d try and see for the next 2 days. At morning tea, it was really nice to finally meet David and Stephanie, as well as the other API students, who were all lovely.

Highlights throughout the day included a keynote on community battery ownership by AutoGrid, and a panel discussion on fixing the NEM’s pricing mechanism to achieve energy equity. I thought the idea of informing consumers as well as giving them access to wholesale rates would be a really interesting way of empowering and enabling those less fortunate to control and save on their energy bills, while also helping stabilise the grid. The day ended off with happy hour, where I got to better know the other students, enjoy more good food, and network with other delegates of the conference. Although time was limited, it felt rewarding and reassuring to have informed discussions with people involved with the industry.

The next day was again full of interesting talks and good food. I particularly enjoyed the panel “The ABC’s of V2G”, where Laura Jones, Oliver Hill and Ricardo Pagliarella were all very impressive, and which made apparent the gaping whole in standards we have for behind the meter smart energy solutions. The talk on grid forming BESS, in particular hearing from Dr Bahrani and Franco Perez was the perfect level of engaging but also technical enough to feel real and substantiated, and it felt really valuable to see first hand how people at the leading edge of this technology think and solve problems. While these were the highlights, times between these talks were also filled with other interesting speakers, and more discussions with other attendees and the other API students.

Overall, it was certainly a valuable experience, and I’m very grateful and happy to have gone. It has definitely further informed my view of the industry and where I might want to take my career, and what further professional development opportunities I should look out for. Thanks to the API for enabling me to attend. 

Nomi Blom

Personally, I had a really amazing experience as one of the students selected by the Australian Power Institute to attend the Power and Utilities Conference in Melbourne this year.

There were so many highlights, it’s hard to fit them all in, but personally the aspect of this conference which I found most interesting was the exploration of social licence in the context of energy infrastructure. This was actually a surprise to me, as I am currently studying renewable energy engineering at the University of New South Wales, and so I walked in most excited about the panels regarding the renewable energy transition, and in particular the panel, “Blowin’ in the Wind” which explored the role of onshore and offshore wind energy in the renewable transition. While I did very much enjoy these discussions, I also discovered a new passion for the often overlooked importance of social licence within the renewable energy transition.

Ultimately, my favourite panel was “No-one Left Behind: a Whole of Community Approach to a Just Transition”, as I feel this concept of a ‘just transition’ continues to be detrimentally overlooked within many contemporary energy projects. 

Of course, the panels and keynotes were just one aspect of the conference, and while it was very inspiring to watch the speakers talk passionately about their aspirations for the future of energy in Australia, arguably even more amazing was getting to actually talk to these speakers after their events, at the many networking opportunities. As someone who is passionate about renewable energy and hopeful to progress into a career within this field, it was really amazing to be in a room full of people with rich experiences in a plethora of different roles in the energy sector. In addition to this, as a female engineering student within what can often be a very male-dominanted sector, it was also very inspiring to see and meet many strong female role models who have already led amazing careers within the Australian power industry.  

Ultimately, walking out of the conference I feel I have gained new knowledge, improved my networking skills and met some very inspirational role models, and I am very grateful for what has been an enlightening and inspiring experience!"

Alex Arellano

I am immensely grateful to the Australian Power Institute (API) for sponsoring my attendance at the recent P+U Engineering Conference in Melbourne.

Over the two days, I attended various seminars, learned about the latest developments in our field, and connected with industry professionals and other delegates from interstate with similar passions and goals. The conference was not only a platform for learning and growth but also a valuable experience that has significantly enriched my understanding of the latest developments in the engineering field.

Day 1: Experience and Learnings Morning Sessions:

Consumer Perspective • From Ocean to Rooftop - Opportunities in Renewable Generation Afternoon Sessions: • Talking Straight on Renewable Gas • Knowledge Hub (BESS Battery Storage Solution)

Through the multiple seminars and the knowledge hub, I gained insights into professional and personalised perspectives not covered in university teachings. The discussions on large projects and incidents, such as the Callide C power station disaster in 2021, the proposed ‘Project Edith’, and the Albury-Wodonga green gas initiative, opened my eyes to potential opportunities for undergraduates and important lessons for the future engineers.

Day 2: Experience and Learnings Morning Sessions:

EV Integration Afternoon Sessions: • Grid + Systems

Day two provided similar insights as the first day, focusing on electric vehicle integration and power grid systems, which were of particular interest. The presentations from TransGrid on ‘Project Energy Connect’ (joint efforts with ElectraNet) in NSW, Ausnet's reinforcement of their systems with DERMS around Wodonga and work in Ballarat, and Powercor’s expertise and coverage in Geelong and Western Victoria were especially impactful.

Throughout the event, I networked with other delegates, learned about their different experiences, and interacted with company representatives at their stalls, many of which I had not heard of before. Conversations with established professionals and new graduates from various companies and industries within the power and utilities sector provided valuable insights into potential opportunities for internships or graduate roles. The conference highlighted a wide variety of opportunities that might otherwise be hidden to those not immersed in a specialized engineering conference.

I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to API for the sponsorship and support. This experience has been incredibly valuable, and I look forward to applying what I've learned in my future endeavours.

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