Training & Events

Training & Events


Jarrod Leak, Atta Ullah Sanai, Jasmine Stewart, Francesca Muskovic and Glenn Schultz discuss one of the days's hotter topics: heat pumps.
Jarrod Leak, Atta Ullah Sanai, Jasmine Stewart, Francesca Muskovic and Glenn Schultz discuss one of the days's hotter topics: heat pumps.

Where the rubber met the road: EEC National Conference Day 2 

Let's start at the end, with the Australian government's Clare McLaughlin and Anthony Lean on stage with Grattan Institute's Tony Wood and the CEOs of ACOSS Australian Council of Social Service and EEC, Cassandra Goldie AO and Luke Menzel.


McLaughlin, who had been present with her team for the entire conference and the Industrial Decarbonisation Summit, was keen to show exactly how seriously the government is taking energy demand, exactly how closely she and her team had been listening, and where that $1.3 billion in last year's budget is being spent.

Running through a list of actions the government is committing to over the next year, Clare stressed that energy performance is the cross-cutting enabler across the coming sector decarbonisation plans, with her department working hard with states and territories to put fundamentals in place.

Those fundamentals include:

  • Residential energy performance disclosure
  • Minimum performance standards for appliances
  • Financial incentives
  • Consumer protections

"The thing everyone beats us up about is minimum energy performance standards for heat pumps. We're working on it. I promise," Clare said.

"There are lots of standards worldwide and not a lot of agreement about which one we should use, but we'll have an imact statement out for release early next year–it's within sight."

Top to bottom: Alan Pears AM, PIAC's Douglas McCloskey, A/Director Deepthi Worthing of the Australian Government's Circular Economy Division, AIRAH CEO Sami Zheng and EEC's Rachael Wilkinson in one of the day's two heat pump panels.

"State governments care about these things, so we're looking at where the biggest-bang-for-buck is, and what the Commonwealth's role should be."

And then:

"I'm from the Australian government and I just said 'insulation' out loud. Insulation and double glazing will be in the Household Energy Upgrades fund ... we recognise in the design of these programs that thermal performance is as important–if not more important–than getting renewables into your home." - Clare McLaughlin.

For all the government is doing, there are still fundamental problems to be solved and undeniable policy gaps, and no-one was better placed – in budget week – to point them out than ACOSS' Cass Goldie.

Acknowledging the "hard, tough work from people in government who are really committed to this agenda," the ACOSS CEO made clear that didn't let them off the hook.

"We are simply not delivering the extraordinary health, social and economic outcomes, and the ability to tackle the climate crisis, for people experiencing disadvantage," Cassandra said.

"We're still talking pilots, trials and small investments, while people on low incomes are spending 5 times the proportion of their income on energy use than people on high incomes."

"To see $3.5 billion spent on a $300 energy rebate that goes to everyone regardless of need – which was contrary to the advice from experts on what was required to provide cost of living relief – is very hard to take. Because we knew how to do it better," she said.

"We've always said climate change will hit low income earners first… we cannot leave them behind. Put them in the centre of the design. Do it the other way around."

Which, of course, was part and parcel of Amory Lovins' message on integrative design on Day 1.

Alex St John and demand response panelists: Enel X Head of Reliability & Demand Response Claire Richards, NSW government's Energy Division Market Development Director Terry Niemeier, CEO of Nexa Advisory Stephanie Bashir and PIAC's Craig Memery.

Across Day 2's sessions, Australia's leading demand-side thinkers showed they're up to the task of tackling our heaviest and most pressing problems.

Whether it was the NEM or Australia's coming financial disclosure legislation, the problem-solving and respect across the board was energising.

Beginning a panel on demand response, Enel X's Claire Richards put it in clear terms:

"'Energy management first' is a concept that needs to underpin the way we think about the transition in Australia."

Echoing Amory Lovins, NSW DCCEW's Terry Niemeier discussed putting a value on energy savings at peak times, and how it can be used as an incentive.

"Peaks are not just a problem, they're an opportunity to be strategic with when we use energy," Terry said.

But how? Answers were everywhere.

Using the example of service providers sending text messages during times of extreme peak demand – and the way communities were mobilised to act during the Millennium Drought – Public Interest Advocacy Centre's Craig Memery said that "when Government has engaged the community with clear signals, we've avoided rolling blackouts. And it hasn't been politicised and blown up – people have done the right thing. It wouldn't be much of a stretch to extend that to saving the planet."

"Could we make seasonal energy demand a social problem, with renewable generation forecasts on the news alongside the weather, to help the community generate non-market responses?" - Craig Memery

L to R: EEC's Alex St John, Tennant Reed, NSW Government's Liam Ryan, University of Sydney Law Professor Penelope Crossley and CEC Director of distributed energy Con Hristodoulidis.

In a session focussed on redesigning the National Electricity Market, Tennant Reed said our aspiration should be to "make energy boring again."

"Energy should be something people don't need to think about," Tennant said. "But that will mean some of us sweating the small stuff ... to ensure the system works for everyone."

Having worked as a lawyer in banking Professor Penelope Crossley said the complexity of Australia's energy systems felt very similar to the way financial markets were operating before the global financial crisis.

"No-one feels on top of how it all fits together," Penelope said. She described the barriers to understanding how energy works in Australia being so significant, most Australians don't know there is a free government service to compare bills, even though "these services are actively provided because there's a lack of consumer understanding – and still they're not seen!"

As Douglas McCloskey put it, "We focus on mechanics, not what they deliver. We're creating systems for people who don't care enough (about energy) to make choices. As an example, we now have all the music in the world at our fingertips, yet we listen to playlists that are auto-generated for us. This is how we need to be thinking about energy systems."

L to R: EEC Head of Policy Jeremy Sung, Director of Climate Disclosure at Australian Treasury Rebecca McCallum, Ai Group's Tennant Reed, Energetics CEO Dr Mary Stewart and nbn's Mark Jones.

As Executive Manager of Sustainability at nbn® Australia, Mark Jones works for an organisation that touches 8.6 million homes, 50,000 grid connection points, and deals with huge scope 3 emissions.

In a session on accounting standards and the upcoming climate-related financial disclosure regulations, of course scope 3 emissions were front and centre.

As Energetics' Dr Mary Stewart explained, scope 3 emissions currently mean different things to different people. "What it should be about is material risk, and the responsibility organisations have to decarbonise their supply chain."

In a fascinating session moderated by Jeremy Sung, the pannelists unravelled the huge potential impacts of mandating financial disclosure.

"Right now, there's not much genuine demand for green steel or green aluminim," Tennant Reed explaned. "Apple is using a little bit, but demand needs to come from downstream companies caring about scope 3."

In the day's first session, CEO of the Investor Group on Climate Change (IGCC) Rebecca Mikula-Wright had discussed the "incredible pace" our trading partners were working at to create regulation encouraging emission reductions, with a weight of investors asking countries across the world to align on emissions reductions targets and regulation.

But as Director of the Treasury's Climate Disclosure Unit Rebecca McCallum said later:

"Australia is one of the only countries that haven't mandated digital financial reporting. And voluntary reporting is zero."

In accounting standards, it seems we have a mountain to climb, but it's just one peak in a range full of them.

EEC's Rachael Wilkinson, ACT Government's Ros Malouf, Brighte's Nigel Freitas, Energy Consumers Australia's Kerry Connors and Siebel Elton's Glenn Day.

The day's two heat pump sessions – one on residential, one for business – were full of the country's foremost experts discussing how the myriad benefits of heat pump technology can overcome old messages and biases, and defeat incumbent fossil gas and its decades of embedded social licence.

The key points? Trust, trust, trust.

"Heat pumps make things better immediately, and they align with the way people experience energy – heat, cold, light," said Douglas McCloskey. "But if we make promises to people and all their worst fears come to fruition (through low-quality installations) then we are working against ourselves – we have to get quality and standards right."

Or, as STIEBEL ELTRON Australia's Glenn Day put it:

"To the governments in the room - you know the transition is going to need these products. Don’t leave it too late. Standards are needed now."

With just two days and three spaces, sessions were even squeezed in over lunch, with Property Council of Australia's Francesca Muskovic and Mike Dodd, GAICD of the Australian Building Codes Board discussing proposed updates to the 2025 National Construction Code. Key points included: 

  • with 90% of electric vehicle charging forecast to occur at residences and 10% at commercial locations, addressing the impact of EV charging on buildings by mandating minimum infrastructure requirements
  • Requiring commercial buildings with gas boilers to allocate space and infrastructure (electricity, ventilation, water loops, etc.) for future transition to heat pump systems

Rebecca Mikula-Wright on stage with the CEOs of Siemens ANZ (Peter Halliday), MAC Trade Services (Merrily Hunter), Climate Change Authority (Brad Archer) and EEC (Luke Menzel).

Yet again, we find outselves 1500 words into a wrap with notebooks still full of critical intel from speakers we haven't yet mentioned.

All of our speakers deserve so much more, as throughout Thursday's discussions at UNSW Roundhouse, what grabbed us most was the focus.

Of course, we'll be the first to acknowledge that we would say this, wouldn't we (it being our event), but it was a comment made by several attendees (as noted in this piece from The Fifth Estate).

But with the relaunch of our podcast, First Fuel, there will be more ways to access content from the 2024 EEC National Conference, so stay posted as we bring more online in coming weeks.

To those who came and brought your energy and your knowledge – our heartfelt thanks.

And to our partners who made it all possible; again – thank you.