5 minutes with Tony Croagh, General Manager Australia

December 2016

Smart infrastructure is a hot topic in the energy industry and Tony Croagh is excited to see real examples come to fruition in local markets. Energy Source and Distribution catches up with Electrix's General Manager of Australian Operations to hear about the logistical and operational challenges of integrating new technologies.

 What are the key challenges facing asset owners in T&D?

Historically, asset owners have been under pressure to reduce costs and achieve operational efficiencies – this pressure will only increase in the future. Another key challenge for asset owners is effectively managing the investment in upgrading aged assets and ensuring reliable power supply to match population growth and geography. Going forward, we can expect to see the impact of new and potentially disruptive technologies. However, the market is interested in integrating technologies such as household generation, renewables and storage systems into the supply grid, so this is likely to be a positive challenge.

What sections of the market do you see opportunity for improvement and innovation?

Improvement will come from two main sources: ongoing refinement of existing approaches and the introduction of new technologies. Smart metering is a good example of both approaches working together. Ongoing refinement comes from applying expertise and experience, and new technologies such as smart lighting and renewables are a key focus area for Electrix. In terms of ongoing  refinement, we have delivered other operational efficiencies to our customers by careful analysis of usage and lifecycle data, which has highlighted areas of the distribution grid that are priorities for preventative maintenance and upgrades. This is an example of using existing resources (infrastructure, equipment and labour) in the best possible way. Of course, there’s also great potential in the  renewables space. Electrix has had a strong track record in renewables and we see this continuing, especially in wind and solar in Australia, as well as our heritage in geothermal in New Zealand.

What aspects of smart city infrastructure do you predict to make an impact in the next 12 months?

‘Smart lighting’ is a term we’ve all heard about, but now it’s good to see real life examples coming to fruition in local markets, especially as they provide greater amenity for the whole community
including financial benefits, better visibility, safer traffic flow, reductions in crime, and reduced environmental impact. Electrix has invested in being at the forefront of the smart cities evolution in
Australia and New Zealand, and we are uniquely positioned in the market. This is because, as a skilled utilities asset manager, Electrix has a track record of managing all of the logistical and operational challenges of street light installation, maintenance and changeover programs. Coupled to this local experience is the backing of the VINCI Energies Citeos business, which provides specialised knowledge to develop and deliver lighting and urban equipment, working in partnership with local authorities and asset owners.

Tell us about the new owners of Electrix, VINCI Energies.

VINCI Energies is a French business with a turnover of €10 billion operating in 50 countries including 30 outside Europe. With 63,000 employees, VINCI Energies provides services to many of the same
markets as Electrix, and provides Electrix with the financial strength and stability to support large projects, as well as access to additional expertise and experience.

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