Distributing Victoria’s electricity

CitiPower and Powercor is Victoria’s largest electricity distribution company. Its network covers the Melbourne central business district, a large part of the Melbourne metropolitan region, as well as the major population centres across the central and west regions of Victoria including Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat, Horsham, Mildura and Warrnambool. In all, our network services more than 1.1 million customers. CitiPower and Powercor is the only Victorian distribution company that services both capital city and regional customers.

Prioritising safety

While all distribution businesses in the Victorian electricity industry have safety as a top priority, at CitiPower and Powercor we pride ourselves on our safety procedures, which we believe are the best in Australia.

The smart meter challenge

The electricity industry is dynamic: innovation in generation and customer demands constantly drive change. Many of these changes continue to occur as a gradual evolutionary process. Therefore, it is probably fair to say the biggest quantum change CitiPower and Powercor has undergone in recent years has been the rollout of the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), which is commonly known as smart meters.

The Victorian rollout began in 2009 and since then CitiPower and Powercor has installed almost 1.1 million smart meters in homes and businesses across our network. We have all but completed the rollout on time and on budget. Our program received a major tick of approval from the Australian Energy Regulator, which said it represented the lowest cost to consumers compared to those of other Victorian distribution businesses.

The AMI program means that meters can be accurately checked remotely, without the need for a meter reader to attend a property. We can also re-energise and de-energise remotely, which saves money for customers. Customers can also access a variety of services which allow them to manage their electricity use more effectively. Another important function of the AMI system is that we can identify potential faults before customers are aware of them, increasing the network’s safety.

The energy storage challenge

In April our CEO, Tim Rourke, attended the 7th Energy Storage World Forum held in London, and featuring more than 70 speakers from 25 countries covering a total of 50 topics.

CitiPower and Powercor is acutely aware that understanding and utilising energy storage is one of the key components to future viability in the energy industry.

Advice taken from the forum, and a briefing on ‘Europe’s biggest battery’ project which is being run by UK Power Networks (which, like CitiPower and Powercor, is a partly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong’s Cheung Kong Infrastructure), will be presented to our executive management team.

We will then use this to evaluate the potential for our own investment in projects and trials in the energy storage field.

Inside the organisation

It is unlikely that the make-up of the workforce employed by CitiPower and Powercor will radically change, or that we will require substantially more of a certain type of occupation. However, over the next five years and beyond, we will continue to focus on creating a diverse workforce that ensures we have the right skilled people to take us into the future.

This year we employed a record number of new apprentices and trainees – 49 across different areas. These included cable jointers, electrical fitters, electrical distribution design engineers and technical officers to name a few.

We understand the value of having experienced hands on deck, and we have many workers with decades of experience in the electricity industry. Their knowledge and experience is invaluable to our business. However, we understand these people will not be here forever and that we must have generational renewal, so that all their experience can be passed on and built on so CitiPower and Powercor can continue as Victoria’s leading distribution business.

Future outlook

Society will always require electricity, so we will still be here going strong.

However, as mentioned, the electricity industry is constantly evolving, which means CitiPower and Powercor must adapt to changes and challenges driven by customers and technology, as well as strive to be ahead of the curve and drive changes to benefit our business and our customers.

Obviously, one of the main factors that will determine what we look like in ten years time is the rise in distributed generation. More and more people are installing solar panels in their homes and businesses, which limits our role in the distribution of power but increases our challenges.

As a result, we recognise we need to move outside the purely regulated model we currently exist in and provide more diversified services in the unregulated space. This can include services such as maintenance, installation, monitoring of meters, asset inspection and compliance auditing. As the industry continues to evolve, CitiPower and Powercor will also look at opportunities in the co-generation space, helping industry and small communities find combined generation and distribution solutions to their energy needs.

CitiPower and Powercor in three words?

Safety, reliability, performance.

Michelle is a freelance journalist and editor who, as well as covering all the latest and breaking industry news, is a gun proofreader and editor who never misses a trick.

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