CEO Message February 2021


Hello everyone, and I hope you all got to enjoy some down time over the holiday season.

Welcome to the new CEO Message! Communication is a crucial component of all organisations and we’ve been looking at ways to improve our delivery of information to members and reduce the number of emails we send out.

 In future, instead of a monthly CE news and multiple emails for each APGA event, the secretariat will be sending a weekly multievent notice, a monthly CEO Message and a monthly APGA Update providing information on APGA committee work, APGA services and related events for members.

Fewer emails

The multievent notice will be sent on Mondays and will contain information on all upcoming APGA events. Events will be listed in chronological order and will have everything you need to organise and manage your attendance at our events. Given we have historically sent three to four emails per event, we expect this change will reduce the number of emails we send to members by up to 50 each year. The APGA Update will be sent in the middle of each month.

Obviously, whenever we try new things there is a learning curve and we always welcome member feedback. In particular, we’re keen to hear your thoughts on the new multievent notice. We hope it will be as easy as ever to stay up-to-date with our event program with around half the emails in your inbox.

There will still be occasional subject-specific emails and reminders for various APGA services and activities. In the first instance, this week you can expect to see a reminder for the 2021 APGA Women’s Leadership Development Program. Based on last year’s strong response, we are planning to have two cohorts of 20 to 25 participants this year. We are very pleased at the membership’s response to the program and the feedback we have received from the 75 participants so far, so please encourage women in your team to apply. From my perspective, two things I have seen from the program that I find really encouraging are:

  • The participants especially value the opportunity to learn and develop leadership skills with other women in the same industry.

  • The survey response shows more than 70 per cent of participants are ‘more likely’ or ‘much more likely’ to stay in the industry as a result of having done the program.

Ongoing COVID-19 disruptions

With the COVID-19 impacts on Sydney and State borders over Christmas rolling into Sunday’s news of a lock-down in Perth, we are all well aware that 2021 will continue to be a year requiring flexibility and patience. For APGA, an important event that didn’t get completely disrupted (there were a couple of hiccups) was the early January arrival in Australia of our new Engagement Manager, Dean Bennett. It is great to have Dean here with us in Canberra and he is very much looking forward to seeing members at events around the country this year.

Over January, we have been working on a decision protocol for APGA’s events to help the secretariat and members plan and manage the inevitable disruptions that will happen. We’ll release the protocol in early February so that members have an understanding of how we will decide whether to proceed with events and can plan accordingly.

COVID-19 dominates the political landscape at the start of 2021, with a lot of attention on the planned vaccine roll-out for Australia. The Federal, State and Territory governments all understand that a successful vaccination program all but guarantees their re-election and conversely that a bungled program will make re-election very difficult so the stakes are high. For APGA, the Annual Convention and Exhibition is in late September and most of the population should be vaccinated by then, so hopefully we come together for a very special event in Brisbane.

Labor reshuffle

Last week, Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese reshuffled his front bench. The most significant change was the replacement of the Opposition Climate Change and Energy Spokesman Mark Butler with Chris Bowen. Mr Butler held the brief since final stage of the last Labor Government in 2013 and his replacement no doubt foreshadows a significant shift in Labor policy on change and energy. Already we are seeing Mr Bowen talk in terms similar to the Biden Administration that ‘good climate policy is good jobs policy’.

APGA advocacy

APGA continues to engage the Federal Government and Opposition to advocate the merits of gas, both the crucial role of natural gas today and the future of gas though hydrogen, biogas and renewable methane.

On the former, APGA is finalising a modelling project with Frontier Economics that examines the relative costs of introducing increasing volumes of variable renewable electricity to the National Electricity Market. The final report will be released in due course but, for now, there are some promising indicators. The modelling suggests that a system that is supported by gas, keeping installed generation capacity at around 7 per cent, will be almost 40 per cent cheaper than moving to 100 per cent renewables. This should not be surprising: we are probably all familiar with the 80:20 rule that the final or hardest 20 per cent of any project takes 80 per cent of the work. The move to 100 per cent renewable is clearly more challenging than a move to 90 per cent renewable, Through emission reduction and offset, CCS and future fuels, it is easy to envisage a long-term role for gas in a net-zero emission electricity system.

APGA will be using the project’s findings in our engagement with the government in coming months for two key processes:

  • The commencement of work on the Australian Energy Market Operator’s 2022 Integrated Systems Plan (ISP). This document, focussing on the National Electricity Market, models scenarios of future generation and infrastructure patterns to guide government policy and industry investment decisions. The 2020 ISP vastly underestimated the role of gas-fired power generation (GFPG) -- it forecast GFPG would provide between 3,000 and 3,500 GWh in 2021-22. In reality, GFPG provided 14,471 GWh in the last 12 months). APGA is working with other industry associations to ensure gas is adequately represented and modelled in the ISP’s next iteration.

  • The National Gas Infrastructure Plan. With AEMO’s low forecasts for GFPG in the electricity market, we are eager to ensure that more realistic scenarios are included in the Federal Government’s National Gas Infrastructure Plan. We have been engaged closely with the officials working on the project and are keen to see the plan demonstrate the critical role gas infrastructure plays in ensuring Australia’s energy demand is met as reliably and efficiently as possible. While we see a lot of commentary about the price of renewable electricity, it is important to remember that the direct burn of natural gas by industrial users for high-quality heat is a far more economic option than any form of electricity.

Well, that’s it for the first ever CEO Message. I expect future versions should be a bit shorter, so please keep an eye out for it and let me know what you think.

All the best for the year ahead.