New AGL chief could bring fresh approach to solar, energy storage

Australia’s largest electricity generator AGL Energy has announced the appointment of US energy industry veteran Andrew Vesey to succeed outgoing managing director and CEO Michael Fraser in February 2015.

The utility’s board said it selected Vesey with an eye to the future, particularly the evolution of a new energy business model and the emergence of solar and storage, to give the company’s near four million consumers more choice.

Deutsche Bank analyst Hugh Morgan said Vesey had significant experience in emerging technologies.

The former COO of US utility AES Corporation has written several papers on the subject, and has experience with large-scale renewables, rooftop solar, and battery storage.

“We view this as important given emerging issues such as solar PV, battery storage and smart grids,” he wrote in a note to clients. “The AGL Board highlighted that Mr Vesey’s appointment was not driven by a desire or need for a new strategic direction for the company.”

But in an interview with RenewEconomy, AGL chairman Jerry Maycock said the appointment was made with an eye to manage existing assets, and to the future, particular that of distributed generation, solar and storage.

Maycock said the gentailer needed to ensure it would play a role in helping its customers manage these changes, providing the necessary technology or management services.

Vesey is not new to Australia, however, having led Victorian network operator CitiPower – now part of Spark Infrastructure.

AGL said Vesey has more than 30 years’ experience in the energy sector, including strategic and commercial leadership of large energy organisations. He has deep experience in working in complex regulatory and political environments.

AGL announced the appointment on the same day that one of its senior executives, Marc England, made a presentation in Melbourne outlining how the utility would manage distributed generation.

England said AGL estimates that 3 million Australian households will be “fully or partially” off grid by 2030, but that means that two thirds of energy users will remain fully on grid.

“Australian energy consumers are in the midst of a transformation from passive and unconscious consumption to empowered and more energy literate consumption,” he told the utilities conference in Melbourne on Tuesday.

“This transformation has no doubt been brought on by disruptive technologies, new policies and fresh competition in our industry that are shaking up the way we source, consume and pay for our energy.”

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© 2014 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson