Levers of Exchange

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S03E04 Stuart Hillen, Portfolio Development Lead, EnergyAustralia

Season 3, Ep. 4

What we discussed: Except for roads, we don’t tend to interact with large, physical infrastructures. For sure, we see the wires of the electric grid, but we don’t commonly see the electric power plans, refineries, and substations. Stuart and I discussed the business models and challenges that electric utilities face in Australia as they undertake decarbonization efforts.

Why it matters: We often forget that we rely on infrastructure being available 100% of the time. Yet the cost of keeping the electric grid operating at that level is immense. Utilities build physical hedges in terms of overcapacity so as to provide certainty on uptime.

What it means for you: As you think of system change, think of the failure modes of the system. How many failures are you willing to tolerate? How many can you avoid, and how many backup plans do you need to draw up to guarantee a certain performance criteria?

Interviewee’s Bio:

Stuart Hillen, EnergyAustralia, Melbourne, Australia

MBA, Saïd Business School

As Portfolio Development Lead Stuart is responsible for originating and executing generation development opportunities to transition EnergyAustralia’s 5,000 MW generation portfolio. Technologies covered include utility scale storage, pumped hydro and renewable investments. https://www.linkedin.com/in/stuart-hillen/

 

In this interview, we discussed the following questions:

  • What's your favorite infrastructure?
  • What were the critical skills you learned as a civil engineer that helps you with your day-to-day jobs?
  • What is the problem solving approach you take as a trained engineer? 
  • What's your role at EnergyAustralia?
  • What stage of project development do you get involved in? 
  • What is the business model of EnergyAustralia?
  • So you try to have the right physical portfolio mix to provide electricity. When you don't have it, you procure it from the market.
  • Can you describe dispatchable power?  
  • Batteries time-shift resources, depending on what's available on the market. Given these movements of fuel shifting globally, what's the role of the utility in decarbonized future?
  • There is quite a bit of indication to "electrify everything". It implies the need to double the size of the electric sector to absorb the transportation sector!
  • You've mentioned a smattering of technologies. Technology cycles are usually 6-18 months, yet utilities need to think in 30 years. As a project developer, how do you match these time cycles?
  • When you're project financing, how much do you have to take into account new business models? 
  • What is the not-often discussed field of Ancillary Services?
  • Can you comment on the high costs to effectively maintain 100% uptime of the electric grid?
  • Sometimes the overbuilding is criticized as waste, but to maintain nearly 100% uptime, one just need physical assets as hedges.
  • Another way of creating that resiliency is fuel switching. What's the advantage of the hybrid power plant you worked on?
  • Is Hydrogen a drop in fuel for Natural Gas? 
  • Have you seen the trend of hydrogen projects?
  • Hydrogen electrolyzes produce the hydrogen. What sounds unclear is whether the electric utility should own the business model of producing hydrogen, right?
  • When you're evaluating technologies, how do you know if a technology is "good enough"?
  • Are we waiting for technology to improve, or for capital to implement?
  • How many different stakeholders get involved and how many do you have to satisfy? 
  • When did you first get exposed to these issues that made you want to work with an electric utility?
  • Were you surprised by the level of complexity of the stakeholders and issues involved?
  • What is it about complexity that made you want to seek it out?
  • So basically, complexity gives you job variety!
  • To a student or early professional, what skill would you recommend them to learn?
  • Curiosity has a humbleness of knowing that there's more to know, and a seeking of what one's lacking.


About Levers of Exchange:

Interview by Jimmy Jia (www.jimmyjia.com)

Music by Sean Hart (www.seanhart.com)

Website: https://www.leversofexchange.com/

 

Season 3 is funded by a generous grant from the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, at the Saïd

Business School, Oxford University.

More Episodes

8/3/2021

S03E09 Skills that students should learn

Season 3, Ep. 9
Personal Resilience. Vision. Listening, and a sense of curiosity. These were the skills that our Season 3 guests recommended students and early career professionals learn today if they want to enter the sustainability sector. Our guests spanned across telecom, water, finance, maritime, electric utilities and cultural systems. I was curious, are the skills to succeed the same or different? I asked every guest, what skill they would advise a student or early professional to learn. The answers were very revealing.Natalia Pshenichnaya, the former Head of Programmes at the GSMA Foundation tied personal resilience to how this deeper inner awareness keeps the person grounded in what's important to them. Joaquin Viquez, a water consultant for the German Development Agency G-I-Zed, also pointed out the importance of a vision and personal passion.James Mitchell trained as a cellist before creating a career in Sustainable Finance. Now at the Rocky Mountain Institute, he pointed out that just like in a chamber music group, listening to each other, hearing each other, responding and reacting in kind with each other, is a critical skill to learn.Three of our guests, however, pointed out the power of curiosity and asking the right question, including Jeremy McDaniels, now the Senior Advisor for Sustainable Finance at the Institute of International Finance.Stuart Hilen, a Portfolio Developer at EnergyAustralia, put it differently. He considered the skills he looks for when hiring team members.Finally, Shruthi Vijayakumar summed it up beautifully. Questions invite others into our own space, to question with us.So, there you have it. Those are the skills that students and early career professionals should learn. It's not the textbook lessons that will create systems change. It's the interpersonal skills of inviting others in, of making chamber music together, that will create the new systems for everlasting change.Guests:·Stuart Hillen, EnergyAustralia, Melbourne, Australia https://www.linkedin.com/in/stuart-hillen/·Jeremy McDaniels, Institute of International Finance, Washington DC USA https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeremy-mcdaniels/·James Mitchell, Rocky Mountain Institute, London, UK https://www.linkedin.com/in/james20/·Natalia Pshenichnaya, formerly GSM Association, Berlin, Germany https://www.linkedin.com/in/natalia-pshenichnaya-7107781a/·Shruthi Vijayakumar, Education New Zealand, Auckland, New Zealand https://www.linkedin.com/in/shruthivijayakumar/·Joaquin Viquez, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, San Jose, Costa Rica https://www.linkedin.com/in/joaquinviquez/About Levers of Exchange:Interview by Jimmy Jia (www.jimmyjia.com)Music by Sean Hart (www.seanhart.com)Website: https://www.leversofexchange.com/Image by Juraj Varga from PixabaySeason 3 is funded by a generous grant from the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, at the Saïd Business School, Oxford University.
7/27/2021

S03E08 What’s your superpower skill in making systems change?

Season 3, Ep. 8
Have you ever wondered if skills that got us to where we are today, may not be the same skills needed to solve the world's most pressing problems? For those who have been listening to Season Three, you know that we interviewed six practitioners who work deeply at the intersection of large systems. What are the skills necessary to thrive at those intersections?Shruthi Vijayakumar, a Global Shaper at the World Economic Forum and co-founder of the Emerge Institute, points out that making sense of cultural systems means understanding the historical context and how one fits into the social fabric. For Stuart Hillen, a Portfolio Developer at EnergyAustralia, as an engineer, he found his calling using his problem-solving skills to understand how things work and how things are made.Another trained engineer, Joaquin Viquez who works for the German Development Agency GIZ. He attributed a sense of knowing what's missing rather than noticing what was there.For all of us who work at the intersection of systems, it's communication that is the ultimate skill. Communication comes in many forms. For James Mitchell, Principle at the Rocky Mountain Institute, the stakeholder engagement he had to do in the maritime sector required a lot of listening in order to get the Poseidon Principles launched.Natalia Pshenichnaya, who spent many years at the GSMA Foundation, found new products and applications of how the Telecomm sector could alleviate poverty and improve agriculture businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa. She pointed out the importance to articulate messages in the language and jargon of whomever she was talking to.Finally, Jeremy McDaniels credited facilitation skills at bringing people together across many sectors. As the Senior Advisor for Sustainable Finance at the Institute of International Finance, he interacts with global actors, across 400 institutions and tries to strive for consensus.So there you have it - it's the art of figuring out what's possible. Some of it is curiosity driven, some of it is breaking down big problems into its constituent parts. But time and again, we heard just how important it is to translate between stakeholders - the jargon, the expectations and the underlying mentalities. Hopefully this episode gives you an idea of what skills you have, and what you can develop for a successful future.Guests:Stuart Hillen, EnergyAustralia, Melbourne, Australia https://www.linkedin.com/in/stuart-hillen/Jeremy McDaniels, Institute of International Finance, Washington DC USA https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeremy-mcdaniels/James Mitchell, Rocky Mountain Institute, London, UK https://www.linkedin.com/in/james20/Natalia Pshenichnaya, formerly GSM Association, Berlin, Germany https://www.linkedin.com/in/natalia-pshenichnaya-7107781a/Shruthi Vijayakumar, Education New Zealand, Auckland, New Zealand https://www.linkedin.com/in/shruthivijayakumar/Joaquin Viquez, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, San Jose, Costa Rica https://www.linkedin.com/in/joaquinviquez/About Levers of Exchange:Interview by Jimmy Jia (www.jimmyjia.com)Music by Sean Hart (www.seanhart.com)Website: https://www.leversofexchange.com/Image by ErikaWittlieb from PixabaySeason 3 is funded by a generous grant from the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, at the Saïd Business School, Oxford University.