3 minute read

In their words: making energy efficient – and affordable

light grey logo
AGL Energy
05 June 2020

‘We sell energy. Why would we want to be energy efficient?’

That was a watershed question that people in the energy sector hit Jenniy Gregory with – and it would be a turning point in how the industry viewed customers.

Jenniy is AGL’s Energy Efficiency Program Manager – and her job has come with a front-row seat to watch attitudes change over the years.

‘I’ve seen the transition from not thinking about energy efficiency to being customer-centric and having energy efficiency as part of business-as-usual,’ said Jenniy.

‘It’s been fantastic to watch. It’s been great to see that mindset shift to understanding the importance of energy efficiency for our customers.’

The flagship victory for Jenniy has been helping steer the development of our Home Energy Efficiency Guide – a simple, straightforward fact booklet on where the most energy in our homes is used – and the simple things we can do to lower our energy bills.

But the ever-evolving guide has been the tip of the energy efficiency iceberg for her. Working with various teams across AGL, she’s seen that increased knowledge is one of the most important energy efficiency tools for our customers.

‘A lot of it is around giving our customers an understanding of energy efficiency – knowing when to turn your air conditioner on, versus when it’s just as effective to leave windows and doors open,’ she said.

‘There are so many simple things you can do that help households.’

Even before becoming part of AGL’s affordability team, Jenniy has put that focus squarely on how we can help vulnerable customers. She regularly collaborates with the editorial team that runs our customer-facing blog, AGL Discover to deliver energy saving advice to customers, and is assisting that same team in the development of an on-line home energy assessment tool for customers. In addition, Jenniy and the Affordability team are exploring new ways to link our energy efficiency programs to AGL’s hardship program, Staying Connected.

Blazing a trail

Jenniy has spent three decades driving the development of energy efficiency and renewable, sustainable technologies.

‘After finishing up at the Victorian Solar Energy Council, I tucked my CV under my arm and headed to the first World Renewable Energy Congress to find a job,’ she said.

One of these roles was lobbying for the International Solar Energy Society in Geneva ahead of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development – otherwise known as the Rio Earth Summit, which defined energy sustainability on the global stage.

‘At the time the OPEC countries1 were trying to take energy out of the negotiations,” she said.

‘It was so vitally important that it stayed in, because without the sustainable generation and use of energy being embedded into an international protocol, emission reduction targets would have been unenforceable.

‘It was through the non-government agencies with a voice on the floor that it was kept in, and the rest is history.’

After returning to Australia, Jenniy stepped back into the burgeoning energy efficiency and renewables industries.

‘In 2004 I began working for the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, which is now the Clean Energy Council,’ she said. ‘My role was to develop the industry in relation to renewables and energy efficiency and formalise what is now the solar installer accreditation scheme.’

This period opened her eyes into different ways of looking at energy efficiency: shifting from a focus on solar and renewables to include other areas like energy performance contracts enabling building upgrades while reducing energy bills.

‘The growth of solar, renewables and energy efficiency - and that whole industry as new regulations came in – was amazing,’ she said.

Meeting a legend…

While in Europe Jenniy worked on numerous renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in the developing world. These projects helped to develop her other passion – supporting vulnerable customers.

This was significantly enhanced by her introduction to Gill Owen, a pioneering researcher and advocate for energy fairness and efficiency across Australia and the United Kingdom.

Gill and husband David Green were well-established in the UK energy industry and passionate about ensuring vulnerable customers were included in discussions around the development of energy policy and regulation.

‘She had a vision about supporting vulnerable customers and making sure they didn't get left behind in any of the changes,’ said Jenniy.

After moving back to Australia, Jenniy remained in contact with Gill and David, who moved to Australia when David became CEO of the Clean Energy Council. While living in Australia, Gill worked with universities and consumer groups in the sustainability and energy space. This included working on the boards of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), where she championed the needs of consumers and the disadvantaged by advising on issues around energy efficiency, fuel poverty, sustainability, smart meters, demand response, and disadvantaged consumers.

Gill’s work helped bring improvements to the Australian regulatory framework, including in the creation of the AER’s Consumer Challenge Panel, and helped establish Energy Consumers Australia (ECA) – the national voice for residential and small business energy consumers.

…and continuing a legacy

For those who knew Gill, her death from an aggressive brain tumour in 2016 was devastating.

Jenniy and a number of colleagues in the Australian energy efficiency industry sought a meaningful way to remember Gill and preserve her research, advocacy, and passion for assisting vulnerable people in future generations.

Thus, the Gill Owen Essay Prize and Scholarship were born.

With the help of Jenniy, David, and passionate colleagues of Gill, the University of Technology Sydney established the Gill Owen Essay Prize as an opportunity for emerging voices in our community to highlight the importance of energy affordability and energy saving for disadvantaged households. In conjunction, ECA created an annual scholarship in Gill’s name.

The prize has now been running for three years, in partnership with AGL and other organisations, and provides fertile ground for ideas to help the vulnerable that Gill cared – and Jenniy cares – about.

The 2019 winning essay from Elise Wood, for example, explores the inequality dilemma of people who, through finances or circumstances, are unable to access cheap, renewable solar power.

Jenniy says she’s proud to have been part of developing such an important program.

‘Awards like this ensure we continue to focus on energy affordability and vulnerable customers,’ she said.

‘Gill was always a passionate advocate for vulnerable customers, and the essay competition continues the discussion on how to meaningfully include vulnerable customers in the energy industry’s changing regulations.’

‘The amazing ideas that flow in show us that there’s still lots more that we can do.’

‘It’s something I’ll always be passionate about because of the benefits that energy efficiency and renewable energy can bring collectively to the world, the environment and our customers.’

1 The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, made up of 13 nations which together account for 44% of the global oil production and 81% of the world’s proven oil reserves. In 1992, the membership included Algeria, Ecuador, Gabon, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.