Energy security in need of review - expert forum

Publication date
Monday, 17 Oct 2016

Australia's energy security needs to be reviewed in the face of new threats from climate change, cyber hacking and greater complexity in the energy system, an expert forum hosted by the ANU Energy Change Institute and Engineers Australia has found.

The call follows a series of blackouts which left thousands of homes without power in Victoria, and the loss of power across South Australia, following wild weather events across South Eastern Australia.

The expert forum in Canberra brought together representatives from industry, government, and academia to discuss energy security.

Engineers Australia's energy security spokesperson Neil Greet said the energy sector was increasingly vulnerable as Australia's energy systems became more complex.

"The energy sector around the world is in a state of transition," Mr Greet said.

"Both energy networks and the internet are critical services that are heavily interconnected and extremely vulnerable to a range of threats."

Director of the ANU Energy Change Institute, Professor Ken Baldwin, said Australia needed to consider the inter-dependency of the electricity system, the heavy reliance on internet connectivity and the geo-political risk of fuel supply chains.

"We have to take all these factors into account and develop a systems approach that looks at all these risks and keeps our energy sector strong," Professor Baldwin said.

"It's also essential that we consider the impacts of climate change, both in terms of the need to reduce emissions and the need to protect our energy systems from the increased risk of extreme weather events."

Speakers at the forum agreed that co-operation and collaboration between state and federal government agencies, researchers and the energy industry was essential.   

"We need to recognise that there is no such thing as absolute security of energy supply as this would require infinite sums of money," Professor Baldwin said.

"But through greater co-operation and a systemic approach, we can dramatically minimise risks to our energy security. This demands a highly collaborative engagement that crosses institutional barriers."

Mr Greet said cooperation between governments and industry was crucial.

"Technology is not the issue here - what we don't have is the human, collaborative and co-operative mechanisms to make our systems work well," Mr Greet said.

"This requires the political will to make the necessary regulatory and institutional reform happen."