Article: 5 questions with Damien Buie, Segment Leader, Energy Transition, AWS Energy & Utilities

What keeps you up at night when you think about the transition in Australia?

The transition to a sustainable electrical system is not just a technical challenge, but also a matter of our willingness to embrace change. Australia’s reliance on large centralized coal generation is a challenge that can be overcome through the adoption of innovative technologies to enable low cost renewables in concert with new flexibility capacity and a modernized and digital electrical network. This will provide a more secure, affordable and sustainable energy mix for consumers and industry. So what keeps me up at night is both the opportunity we have to get out ahead of this, and our human nature that tends to over complicate an achievable goal.

What exciting developments are inspiring you at the moment?

So many remarkable things from around the world, including those from Australia. Almost 40% of Australia’s electricity consumption is currently sourced from renewable resources, we have seen new hydrogen production plants being approved in the Hunter and up in the Pilbara, and the active participation of load to provide grid services is now common in the energy mix. These are real practical indications of progress and innovation, though there is a lot more to do.

How is AWS’s approach different to other organisations in the energy sector?

I don’t see us being different, as much as an integral part of the solution to a modern electrical system. AWS’ technology stack, its domain expertise and its culture can allow innovation to scale out across the whole energy system. The energy sector is at the forefront of technological disruption and our customers are able to unlock and scale innovation and resiliency, securely and in a time-frame that cannot be achieved with existing on-premise approaches. The depth of experience AWS has in driving change globally in different markets around the world is an added benefit to building confidence in the outcomes.

We hear a lot of concern that the transition is not moving fast enough. What do you see as potential solutions for unblocking some of the current gridlock?

AWS is directly working on addressing bottlenecks to the energy transition. Three critical areas we see globally are:

  1. Interconnection and permitting reform to give access to new generation and load
  2. Transparency and simulation across the electrical network so we can unlock capacity across the existing infrastructure and
  3. Supply Chain optimization, leveraging Amazon’s logistics to address a key barrier to growth

We will be sharing use cases from around the world at the conference to showcase the ‘art of the possible’ addressing this very question.

Are there any ‘hidden’ or less discussed issues that the energy sector needs to be more aware of?

The critical barrier to growth is typically not the introduction of new technology as much as addressing the culture and underlying skills gap that exist across an organisation at implementing change at scale. The model we see more and more is around a partnership, where organisations leverage AWS’ capabilities to share our experience and our Culture of Innovation to help them move more quickly. The right culture is just as important and not often discussed.

You can catch Damien Buie speaking on the Plenary day of Australian Energy Week 2024 (12 June).

To access the detailed conference program, download the brochure here.

For more energy content, subscribe to the Energy Insights blog here.