A day in the life of...Future Energy Systems

Chris Davies

Group Manager, Future Energy Systems

My role involves leading a department of highly talented engineers and analysts to help enable the transition of the National Electricity Market power system. This includes establishing a strategy for the engineering efforts needed to prepare and operate the power system at 100% instantaneous levels of renewable generation.

My department is also accountable for delivering a range of priority projects and activities to help support this strategic direction, covering technical investigations, power system planning, specification of technical and functional requirements, and associated stakeholder engagement.

A typical day for me involves a mix of the following elements:

  • A review of priorities and how I can best use my time to help realise our vision and strategic objectives

  • One-on-one check-ins with my team (who are all based in different cities to me) to check-in their wellbeing, and understand if there’s anything they need from me to enable them in their work

  • Engaging in discussions about emerging power system challenges and opportunities, and how these might best be managed to support the long-term interests of consumers

  • Engaging in technical and project delivery discussions regarding our priority projects

  • Collaborations with other leaders across AEMO.

  • Engaging with external stakeholders, including market bodies, network service providers, market participants, and technology providers.

  • Management activities – including strategy development and execution, people management, budget management, and other governance functions.

My career at AEMO so far?

I’ve been at AEMO for eight years, and have seen the industry, the business, and my role evolve significantly over this time. I was originally hired into the role of Manager – Renewable Integration within our Operations division, on the premise of delivering a number of exploratory projects to support a higher renewable power system. This was at a time when renewables were only just starting to emerge in a dominant way and AEMO was beginning to increase its focus on preparations for a high renewable future. Soon after I saw the system black event in South Australia (2016) which became a catalyst for increased industry activity to prepare for the changing generation mix.

Over the years I’ve had the privilege to lead and support an array of different projects and reforms in the NEM, including:

  • Supporting the establishment of the Future Power System Security Program to help identify opportunities to improve power system security in the NEM.

  • Overseeing the development of a Rule Change Proposal in 2017 for Generator Technical Requirements in the NEM which has helped enable the secure integration and operation of gigawatts of new utility wind and solar generation.

  • Leading the development of the NEM Power System Requirements paper to provide a concise, accessible view of the technical and operational requirements of the power system.

  • Leading the NEM Renewable Integration Study which investigated how to maintain power system security in a future NEM with a high share of renewable resources.

  • Leading the development of the NEM Engineering Framework, which built on the Renewable Integration Study to define the full range of operational, technical and engineering requirements needed to prepare the NEM power system for six identified future operational conditions.

  • Leading the development of the NEM Engineering Roadmap to 100% renewables, which built on the Engineering Framework to present AEMO’s view of the technical, engineering, and operational actions required to prepare the NEM to securely and reliably operate at 100% instantaneous renewable penetration for the first time

  • Supporting the development of the 2020 revision to AS/NZS 4777.2 – which specifies the expected performance and behaviour of inverters at low voltages (such as households or small-scale commercial), to ensure that these devices can securely support a growing proportion of Australia’s energy needs.

  • Overseeing the delivery of critical technical advice to industry across the areas of :

  • Specifying power system requirements;

  • Distributed energy resource (DER) technical integration; and

  • Enabling greater deployment and demonstration of grid-forming inverter capabilities

What have you learned so far in your role?

My role continues to be a learning process. The technical challenges and opportunities that we’re seeking to uncover and promote solutions for are wide ranging and complex, and the solution pathways involve many different stakeholders. A few of the biggest learnings for me to-date:

  • Great people are the key to successfully navigating the energy transition, and there is an abundance of them across the energy industry. The best new ideas come when we give people the headspace to think, innovate, and collaborate, and ensure that they feel they’re in a safe, supportive environment where it’s ok to try new things and make mistakes.

  • Given the complexity of changes facing the energy sector, perfection can quickly become the enemy of the good. An imperfect plan that gets executed and enables progress is better than a perfect plan that doesn’t get delivered.

  • Listen before you speak. A lot of time can be saved when we seek to understand the perspectives of others before suggesting our own views.

What is the best thing about working at AEMO?

There are several factors that make AEMO a great place to work

  1.  Having a clear, common purpose – being in an organisation that is seeking to provide an enduring essential service that meets the needs of society is a great motivator every morning.

  2.  The people – being able to work with some of the smartest people in the energy industry on a daily basis, both within AEMO, amongst our many stakeholder organisations, and leading international experts.

  3. The flexibility – I’m able to live in Adelaide, with a team spread across the country, and am able to structure my time in a way that balances high work productivity with being present at home with my young family.



What are you most looking forward to at AEMO in the next 12-18 months?

Making the most of the privileged opportunity my role offers and helping remove barriers to a secure and efficient energy transition, towards a net zero energy system. Doing this in the company of brilliant people, and helping them develop and achieve their personal goals along the way.

Cookies help us improve your website experience.
By using our website, you agree to our use of cookies.