Talking Energy caught up Ergon Energy's Network Strategy and Policy Manager Blake Harvey when, in his capacity as the Queensland President of Engineers Australia, he launched Engineering Week activities in Brisbane recently.

Harvey provides a valuable insight into the state of play of the electrical network in regional Queensland in this 15-minute audio interview. Listen as he discusses alternative energy, micro-grids, inverter standards, electric vehicles, batteries, what the future looks like, and the myriad challenges facing Ergon Energy as it seeks to meet customer expectations while maintaining a safe and reliable electrical network.

Blake Harvey smiles when he remembers the advice given to him by a well-meaning engineer a little more than a decade ago when the uni student was mapping out his engineering future.

"I actually wanted to be a communications engineer," Harvey tells Talking Energy.

"But an older engineer who once worked at Ergon said to me 'you should do power because it hasn't changed in 50 years and it won't change'."

The irony of that statement isn't lost on Harvey whose engineering path has been paved with change - perhaps more than the communications industry. It's been a rewarding career trajectory which has landed him at the vanguard of an exciting and rapidly evolving industry.

"My job at Ergon Energy is about looking at the practical things we can do today to update the grid, make it compatible with what people expect in their energy choices, and then making that work for the next 50 to 100 years so that it is still a useful asset," Harvey says.

"Electrical distributors like Ergon are not really a monopoly any more, so it's about changing the way the business operates. From the perspective of my team, it's putting the technical support in place to adapt the network to meet those changes."

Harvey says a decade ago most people weren't interested in alternative energy unless they were in a remote area or unable to get reliable supply. Customers today are more interested around choice, and availability of supply.

"We're going through a big period of change as an industry and as a state.  Originally the network wasn't designed to flow bi-directionally; solar panel technology means we've really had to cater for increasing volumes of reverse power flow.

"As customers' expectations increase and available technology changes, we as a network provider have to make sure that our network is fit for purpose and able to meet those expectations."

Further reading:

CSIRO Future Grid Forum research.

Engineers Australia (Queensland) website.

Related link:

Ergon Energy electric vehicles webpage.