I grew up in Darwin, in the top end of Australia. Because it’s such a small (and relatively isolated place), lots of people leave Darwin after high school, so at the end of year 12, I headed to the ANU in Canberra. I was looking for a university that specialised in solar technology, and I loved the outdoor lifestyle that Canberra offered. During that time, I went back to Darwin most semester breaks and worked for ABB in their micro-grid division, and PowerWater in their remote renewable energy team, so I was confident that I wanted to enter the power industry once I’d finished my degree, and AEMO placed me right in the heart of the power system. I’ve now spent two years working for AEMO based in the Melbourne office, which has incidentally provided me with many gastronomic adventures as well as the ability to explore the awesome national parks in Victoria.
I’m working as an engineer in our Congestion Modelling team. In a nutshell, this team builds linear equations that tell our control room how much power you can run down a transmission line, in order for everything to remain stable. There are thousands of these equations (for each type of condition you can think of – like a major line being out for maintenance), and together, they keep the grid secure. I run lots of studies using power system modelling tools, to make sure that our limits are acceptable.
It’s long enough that you really get stuck into projects and become a contributing member of your team. I’ve always been given responsibility, as well as really interesting challenges to work on. At the end of each 9-month rotation you’re able to go and explore another area that interests you, knowing that you’re all the better off with your newfound knowledge. Thus far, I’ve had the opportunity to work in varied yet pivotal aspects of the power system, such as ensuring that metering of large loads and generators is accurate, working with new generators as they connect to the transmission network, and making sure that the amount of power exported between states is reasonable.
Being a rotational graduate program, you never get too comfortable in your role before its time to move onto the next exciting opportunity. However, there’s nothing better than moving teams every 9 months to hone your learning style. I’ve found that using reflective practice to optimise the way I work is key: I never do one process for very long, and this allows me to take in information and think things through, before moving on to the next challenging task.
There’s never been a better time to work in the power industry – things are happening that experienced engineers haven’t seen before, the energy mix discussion is at the forefront of politics, and technology is evolving at an incredibly rapid rate. It seems that much of society takes having a reliable power supply for granted, but it’s fascinating to work within the industry and gain a new perspective and appreciation for all the various challenges – you’ll never look at a power line or gas pipe in the same way again.
Don’t be put off by thinking that you haven’t got the ideal degree – one of AEMO’s strengths is the diversity of its employees. As a graduate, you are encouraged to develop a broad understanding of both electricity and gas markets as well as power system operations, and having a diversity of backgrounds helps to bring interesting new perspectives.