It’s an interesting time to lead projects at Energy Queensland. They’re on the frontline of disruption and multiple disruptive forces but are relentless in their ambition to create an energy future that unites and excites all Queenslanders. Danielle Abel shares the approach that’s seeing them flourish amid uncertainty.

About Energy Queensland

Energy Queensland is the largest, wholly government-owned electricity company in Australia. They:

  • Deliver electricity across Queensland through their ‘poles and wires’ businesses, Energex and Ergon Energy Network
  • Sell the electricity to regional customers through their retail arm, Ergon Energy Retail
  • Drive energy transformation through their sustainable energy division, Yurika

Powering through adversity

With so many external factors likely to impact your programs of work, how does Energy Queensland keep the lights on?

Whether it be supply chain limitations, material shortages, insufficient resources or severe weather events, disruptions can spell disaster to a program of work.

At Energy Queensland, our program includes over 10,000 distribution, transmission and maintenance projects, and the level of churn and volatility can be extremely challenging.

We believe the key to successful program delivery is flexibility and planning for change. Over the past five years, we’ve seen a continual increase in customer enquiry, so we’ve adapted program delivery to suit. It ensures we’re meeting the expectations of new customers and keeping existing assets safe and reliable.

Volume of negotiated customer applications 2020-2022 (source: Customer Market & Operations Department, Energy Queensland)

Initiatives to combat disruption

With the increase in customer activity coinciding with rising disruptions, Energy Australia has implemented several successful initiatives:

  • renegotiating performance indicators for the stock-on-hand budget
  • increasing minimum stock holdings
  • building a design bank so that we can pull work forward to backfill any gaps in our program
  • making improvements to our customer connection offer processes to reduce cycle times
  • major software improvements
  • changes to the budget governance frame work to reduce effort where it does not add value

A careful blend of mechanics and dynamics

Energy Queensland focuses on the mechanics and dynamics of project delivery to achieve successful outcomes in the face of disruption.

  • Mechanics such as utilising our processes, systems, and reporting, and
  • Dynamics such as increased communication, collaboration between workgroups and demonstrating empathy towards our people.

While these initiatives aid our ability to adapt to an ever-changing program of work, as an electricity distribution company there are still times when the severity of disruptions results in widespread turmoil.

We didn’t plan for this

Cyclones, floods, bushfires, storms, and severe weather events are all a part of life in Queensland. Although we have many strategies in place for when these occur, the level of damage to our network and program of work is volatile and unpredictable.

In these trying times, our number one priority is repairing our network safely and getting communities reconnected. Mobilising crews of over 700 people to assist with cyclone recovery efforts or storm response is no mean feat, and it can disrupt our planned program immensely.

During periods of extreme disruption, demand for scant resources rises. People feel increased frustration in their efforts to deliver projects. At these times, we focus on assuming ‘best intent’ within our project teams and appreciate that with so many competing priorities, the right decisions won’t always favour our projects.

Embracing uncertainty

We live in a fast-moving world where change is the only constant. Disruption will continue to have a major impact on projects across every organisation.

As project professionals, we must be adaptable and persistent with our plans to combat disruption to our program. We must take time to review our shortcomings, acknowledge and celebrate our successes and always endeavour to learn and improve how we manage work.

At Energy Australia, this adaptive thinking will help us energise Queensland communities and deliver on our promise to provide secure, affordable, and sustainable energy solutions, despite seemingly insurmountable odds.

Bowen Restoration, Tropical Cyclone Debbie (source: Energy Queensland)