The Digital Utility: A Necessary Evolution of Australia's Power Sector

The Digital Utility: A Necessary Evolution of Australia's Power Sector


The Australian power generation, transmission and distribution industry is in the midst of the sector’s most significant transformation ever. From the outside looking in and listening to politicians squabble in Parliament Question Time, this transformation relates only to the switch to renewable energy from coal, the embracing of the smart grid and smart meters, demand-side management and the distributed generation.

But there’s a second transformational scope taking place and that is within the cultural style and skillsets of the industry’s people…

Without a doubt, digitalisation is now and will continue to revolutionise the power sector. Within the network, new technologies and mathematical analytical methods are changing how traditional asset management teams look after their assets. With many of the transmission and distribution organisations facing the issue of ageing assets, the DNOs are having to think hard about where to invest their spending so that they can bring renewable energy and the distributed generation into play with minimal risk to the consumer. Getting this right is critical – a recent McKinsey & Company report indicated that transmission and distribution companies spend around 25% of their Opex and 17.5% of their Capex on asset management.

Whilst many of the organisations have designed and published their visions such as TransGrid’s Network Vision 2056, not all of the organisations have considered if their people have the necessary competencies to support this future direction. A recent 6 Group survey found that only 19% believe this to be so; that leaves a staggering 81% stating that their collective workforce doesn’t have the skills or capabilities to deliver on future needs.

Traditionally, engineers and maintenance workers have been in charge of planning asset management and engineering works but, to drive this change, companies will need to reflect the digital strategy within the technical competence of the personnel they employ.

Having completed two major talent maps within the emerging technologies and asset management space, 6 Group has found that as asset data has become an increasingly important element of asset management, this has subsequently pushed the people and competency skillset from a more dominant engineering discipline to more technology-focussed one. Particularly in Europe and North America, companies are bringing in IT, software, data and quantitative analytical professionals into their Future Networks teams. It has also become important for organisations to better evaluate the performance of their employees and ensure people hold the best-fit skills for the future. For the utility to thrive in the next 30 years, it needs to have significant skills within data analytics and diagnostics.

While the industry is blessed with a wealth of functional and technical experience amongst the many subject matter experts that T&D companies employ, organisations’ success will depend on new capability and new cultures. Very few traditional asset managers/engineers in Australia have had the exposure to emerging technologies and Demand Side Response (DSR). In the UK, Scandinavia, and the US (three markets we extensively mapped) this is typically the domain of data/technology, commercial, and project management professionals.

Implementing this digital future vision needs clear communication from the top and needs to embrace the agile approach of employee empowerment, knowledge transfer, open communication, and support from the C-suite. Many, if not all, of 6 Group’s recent search assignments within the Power sector have demanded ‘leadership through change’ and ‘building a common vision’ as essential behavioural competencies for the successful candidates. This is the New Normal.


6 Group has been conducting transformational change across the Power & Utilities sector for over a decade. We partner with organisations to help them define their evolution and work with them to conduct the necessary steps to achieve it. This includes Leadership Assessment & Development, Executive Search, Talent Mapping & Pipelining and Competitor & Market Intelligence

For a discussion on how we can work together, get in touch.