David Green is an Executive Director of the International Council for Sustainable Energy. He was the founding Chief Executive of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy in his native United Kingdom – a role which built on his previous work as Director of the Combined Heat and Power Association in the United Kingdom.
In 1981, Mr Green co-founded and launched National Energy Action, a United Kingdom-based charity which works with local partners to secure energy for millions of low-income households. He is now Vice-President of the organisation.
Mr Green comes to the position of Chief Executive of the Clean Energy Council (CEC), for which he’ll be based in Melbourne, after having also previously worked as an advisor to the Victorian Government from 1983 onwards, as well as for the United States Department of Energy in the mid-1990s and for various institutions of the European Union over many years from 1989 onwards.
How did you first become passionate about clean and renewable energy?Article continues below…
My interest in clean energy goes back to one of my first voluntary activities, which was working on countryside protection issues. I became increasingly aware of the threat to the natural environment from the unsustainable course that the economy was bound on, and that drove me to get involved in environmental organisations, from which my whole career stemmed.
My career has focused predominantly on energy and social policy, looking at how to ensure low-income households in particular get a ‘good deal’ out of today’s energy market, to make sure that as the transition is made to a lower-carbon future it’s done in an equitable and reasonable manner that doesn’t discriminate against lower- income households.
How will your previous work at a range of organisations in the United Kingdom contribute to your time as Chief Executive of the CEC?
Having set up, with two colleagues, a national charity that focused on community-based action on energy efficiency – National Energy Action – I have an abiding interest in how to engage with communities to drive change. From my work that I did for 14 years at the Combined Heat and Power Association I have a very strong interest in how to deliver high-efficiency generation technologies into the market in a way that not only benefits industrial processes, but also brings to local communities the benefits of low-cost energy options – particularly district heating and cooling.
My work setting up and running the United Kingdom Business Council for Sustainable Energy – the twin of the former Australian Business Council for Sustainable Energy (the forerunner to the CEC) – gave me a strong knowledge of and interest in how you engage at a high political level to get progressive change to happen in the energy sector.
I know a lot about the CEC – I’ve always had a strong interest in its work and believed it has a really important role to play in Australia. I was thrilled and delighted when I was approached and subsequently offered the role of Chief Executive, because it’s an organisation that I’ve got a huge amount of time for and put a lot of value in. Melbourne [the headquarters of the CEC] is one of the world’s most sustainable cities, and has been ever since I was first involved in working there in 1983. It’s a city I love and have a strong contact with and think the combination of the two made the job irresistible.
What goals and objectives do you have for your tenure at the CEC?
One of the dominant issues for the clean energy industry in Australia over the next few months is going to be the review of the Renewable Energy Target (RET). The CEC has a strong role to play in making sure the RET is maintained and that the regulatory underpinning of it is maintained as well. It’s widely recognised across the world that without such measures, the process of transition does not happen cost-effectively and on a reasonable time scale. Getting this cemented is a key task ahead.
More broadly, I’m keen to ensure that the CEC plays to its strengths across all the fields of interest, so that its focus is not only on supply technologies across the renewables field but also focuses on the most cost-effective and cleanest form of energy – which is energy that you don’t use. We’ll be prioritising a comprehensive policy position that covers both the demand side and the supply side, because clean energy is about the whole suite, not just particular technologies.
What lessons can the Australian clean energy industry learn from your experiences in the United Kingdom?
It’s really important that Australia finds long-term market-based solutions ahead. For example, we need to make sure that the Australian energy market functions and underpins the transition processes going on in the Australian economy, and indeed economies globally, of adjusting to the challenge of operating in carbon-constrained economies.
The structure of the United Kingdom’s energy regulator has gone through a metamorphosis in the past few years to really bring into its structure the environmental imperative. In the long term, we’ve got to get sustainable markets that deliver outcomes that are beneficial both to the companies that play in that market, and to the wider environment, which all of us have a stake in.
Over and beyond this, the learning point we’ve all got to make is to ensure that we’re arguing strong and consistent cases that are well-reasoned, confidently tuned, and that resonate with voters. It’s important that voters understand the key issues we’re focusing on, why we’re focusing on them and what benefits will be brought to them.
How can the industry increase connections between communities, clean energy and energy use?
The area we need to focus on is finding the right organisational framework enabling stakeholders to reach out to communities, because it’s in those communities that they’re going to engage with and deal with energy efficiency, the impact of local renewables, transition to new forms of generation technology, smarter ways of using energy in the home, smarter ways of reacting to energy companies – all of this requires engaging with communities and getting structure right to enable communication to happen.
There’s an exciting road ahead for the CEC in being the key player in this institutional structure. It’s not just about education – education can sometimes be a static thing. It’s a dynamic process of reaching out, talking through issues, working out how communities want to move things forward and establish economic benefits and ownership or involvement in new enterprises. There are a whole range of benefits that could flow on and make regional economies stronger.
Do you have predictions for the Australian clean energy industry over the short, medium and long term?
Making predictions is fraught with difficulty, but I would be very surprised if we looked ahead 20 years’ time and recognised the energy industry in Australia compared to the industry now. In the United Kingdom, the transition made by the energy industry in the last 20 years of privatisation, going from a scenario in which gas was banned from use in power stations to one in which gas underpins the United Kingdom economy, is overlaid by rapid deployment of renewables – both onshore and offshore – and a strong energy efficiency policy. Putting those components together here would mean that we wouldn’t recognise the institutional landscape for energy policy in Australia in 20 years’ time.
What advice would you provide to new entrants to the clean energy industry?
Stick with it. Any new entrant will always face challenges – it’s important that they make their voice known effectively, do so in an effective way with other colleagues, and enable peer organisations like the CEC to strongly represent them. If you don’t have strong and effective voices in government and organisational structures, you don’t have the right framework to deliver the kind of commercialisation any new entrant wants.
What are you most looking forward to about Clean Energy Week 2012?
I’m looking forward to meeting a whole range of new people, getting a really good feel for what’s on the industry’s mind, and then seeking to capture that in the work of the CEC in the weeks and months that follow on from the conference. At this stage, it’s really important for the clean energy industry to demonstrate that it is a serious player, a mainstream player, an industry that’s going places and one that wants to engage and ‘get out there’.