Customer-driven electricity suppliers to the people of Queensland
hether you’re shopping in the heart of Brisbane or living in the outback, there’s a pretty good chance that Ergon Energy would have provided the electricity you needed. That’s because it supplies electricity to homes and businesses across a vast operating area of over one million square kilometres – around 97% of the state of Queensland – from the expanding coastal and rural population centres to remote communities like outback Queensland and the Torres Strait. Ergon’s primary objective is to function as a high-performance, customer-driven business. Its operations are divided down the middle. One side of the business builds and maintains the electricity distribution
network. The retail side sells electricity to residential and business customers. “We are all about delivering on our purpose - to provide safe, reliable, efficient and sustainable energy solutions to support our customers and the Queensland economy,” the company says. Operations Behind the simple flick of a light switch are more than 4,000 dedicated employees and an $11.8 billion asset base. Ergon’s network consists of approximately 160,000 kilometres of power lines and one million power poles, as well as infrastructure such as major substations and power transformers. Ergon owns and operates 33 stand-
alone power stations which supply isolated communities across the state that aren’t connected to the main electricity grid. The Barcaldine gas-fired power station, which supplies to the main grid has also been owned by Ergon for almost 10 years now, along with its associated infrastructure. So where did it all begin? Back in 1999 there were six regional Queensland electricity distributors and a subsidiary retailer. The distribution business, more commonly known as the ‘poles and wires’ – is regulated by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) which dictates the price set for distribution costs. Ergon Energy’s retailer is only permitted, by legislation, to sell electricity at the Queensland Government’s Notified Prices. The Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) oversees these tariffs. This enables Queenslanders to access the same uniform electricity tariffs, wherever they live, even though the cost to supply may be different. Energy Queensland In July 2016, the Queensland Government formed parent company Energy Queensland. The combined business includes the two electricity distributors, also Ergon Retail, the businesses’ ICT provider SPARQ Solutions, and a new energy services business. This has created the largest electricity distribution business in Australia, with more than $24 billion in assets. The driving
force behind the merger is to make the electricity sector more efficient and to create an energy business ready for the future. Responding to disaster Queensland’s climate means that there is always potential for inclement weather or bushfires that cause significant disruption to power supplies. Being able to respond quickly, safety and efficiently to such incidents has always been a top priority for Ergon to ensure customers aren’t left without essential electricity. The recent Cyclone Debbie caused extensive damage to Ergon’s network from the Burdekin south to Sarina and west to Collinsville and Moranbah. It cut power to 65,000 customers mostly in the Mackay and The Whitsundays areas. Over 900 field staff from Ergon Energy, Energex, Essential Energy (NSW) and contractors on the ground worked tirelessly to restore power. Most were back on line in just over a week, with the help of technological advances in the industry. “In terms of the electricity restoration effort, it’s been one of the most hi-tech responses to a disaster event in Australia’s history, thanks mainly to the help of an unprecedented level of data, geospatial visualisation and aerial surveillance mapping,” states Ergon. “The ground troops have been backed up by an army of technical support staff sitting at computers assisting with the entire end-to-end response from potential impacts, flood modelling, real-time
damage assessments, restorations, data analytics and providing expert advice.” By using real-time data and pictures of the area, crews were able to co-ordinate restoration work and deliver it more efficiently. Spirit Keeping the focus on Ergon Energy, it has always abided by its founding values embodied in the anagram SPIRIT - Safety, Professionalism, Integrity, Respect, Innovation and Teamwork. “Our goal is to embed these values deep into the consciousness of our employees, so that they are clearly apparent in our everyday working lives,” Ergon says. By adopting this set of values, it means
business objectives are not only met but that Ergon’s employees are enriched by working in an enjoyable environment. Ergon Energy has worked hard to create a safety culture for staff that undertake hazardous roles. The aim is to be ‘Always Safe’, and to this end the organisation rolled out its Safety Citizen programme in 2014-15. This was also implemented in the field with designated members of staff being trained as nominated Safety Citizen Coaches. Ergon maintains a strong focus on supporting employee health, wellbeing and fitness for work. Sustainability The ways in which energy is used has
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altered dramatically over the decades. With the Queensland population growing and more reliance on technology in the home and workplace, there has been a sizeable shift towards efficient energy. Ergon is committed to sustainable energy, and strives to constantly improve the way energy is used in its own buildings and infrastructure. This includes installing solar generation, sensor lighting, water saving devices, rain water harvesting, double-glazed windows, energy efficient appliances and use of natural light. The Toowoomba Office, Rockhampton Training Centre and Mackay Depot and Office were all designed to meet aÂ 5 star National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) through the design of the buildings and the energy efficient work practices of Ergon employees. At the Mackay Depot, sensor lighting is in place, a generator for peak load cropping, rain water storage to service toilets, and irrigation for gardens. There are also movement sensors to manage lighting, air conditioning and security, as well as a solarÂ power system to provide energy. Smart meters ave also been installed at a number of locations throughout Queensland which will help Facilities Managers to target areas of energy wastage in depots and offices. Sustainable energy is just one focus for Ergon Energy as it moves forward under the Energy Queensland umbrella, meeting and adapting to changes and developments in Australiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s rapidly evolving energy market.
Oliver Moy Publisher
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