SEC revival to be assisted by panel

Photo: File



AUSTRALIA’S former chief scientist, Alan Finkel, is one of six members of an expert advisory panel appointed by the state government to help set up the revived State Electricity Commission.

The Premier, Daniel Andrews, and Minister for the State Electricity Commission, Lily D’Ambrosio, announced the panel membership last week.

The expert advisory panel will guide the SEC’s work to make sure it delivers what the government maintains will maximise the benefits of public energy ownership to Victorians – to lower power prices and promote faster investment in renewable energy, storage, and lower emissions.

The panel of energy specialists and business leaders will be chaired by John Bradley, secretary of the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action – and will also include Audrey Zibelman, Andy Penn, Anna Skarbek, and Jo Benvenuti, alongside interim SEC chief executive, Dennis Miller.

Audrey Zibelman is a former managing director and chief executive at the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), where she oversaw the ongoing transition to a decarbonised energy grid.

As former chief executive of Telstra, Andy Penn’s leadership of an ambitious, 5G-focused transformation will bring insights on delivering an essential service within a commercially competitive environment.

Anna Skarbek is chief executive of Climateworks Centre, a not-for-profit developing the low carbon economy, and is also a former banker and founding board director of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Carbon Market Institute.

Dr Finkel is a neuroscientist and engineer. He led the National Electricity Market Review, development of the National Hydrogen Strategy, and the panel advising the 2020 Low Emissions Technology Roadmap.

Jo Benvenuti is a former executive officer of the Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre specialising in consumer engagement, energy and water, and also held an executive position for Victoria’s Energy and Water Ombudsman.

The state government will initially invest $1 billion towards delivering 4.5 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2035.

The SEC will begin market sounding for its first investment in the first half of this year, engaging with industry, unions and training providers through a skills and workforce forum.

The government claims that the SEC’s aim to build, maintain, and operate clean energy assets will create 59,000 jobs. A guaranteed 10 per cent – or 6000 – of those jobs will be apprenticeships and traineeships, delivering secure jobs for young Victorians and building the workforce the government-owned energy sector needs.

Later this year, the government will hold a Renewable Energy Skills and Workforce Forum, which will bring together representatives from clean energy employers, unions, training providers, peak bodies and traditional owner groups.

It will highlight the workforce and skills needed for the thousands of new roles needed to construct, maintain, and operate the state’s clean energy assets.

Minister for Employment, Ben Carroll, said the government would also establish the SEC Centre of Training Excellence to coordinate and work with the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority to accredit courses in clean energy. Clean energy would also be added to the VCE Vocational Major.

The SEC aims to deliver Victoria’s renewable energy and emissions targets – 95 per cent renewable energy by 2035 and net zero by 2045.

Mr Andrews said the government had promised it would not waste a moment setting up the SEC. “We’re getting on with it,” he said.

In Parliament last week, the state opposition accused the Labor government of repeatedly failing to answer one simple question – when and by how much will their SEC plan lower power prices?

Shadow Minister for Energy and Resources, David Hodgett, said Victorians were facing energy price increases of up to $1000, adding further cost of living pressure to already stretched household budgets.

Mr Hodgett said when asked directly in Parliament, Andrews government ministers could not give a date of when, or a figure as to how much energy prices would fall under their promised $1 billion dollar SEC plan.

“Spin and hollow promises won’t lower energy prices,” Mr Hodgett said.

“Victorians deserve a simple answer to a simple question, when will power prices be lower?

“The fact the government can’t come clean on this demonstrates they are making it up as they go along. Instead of policy by politics, we need a real plan to ease skyrocketing power bills for hardworking Victorians across the state.”