5 Minutes With: CS Energy’s Emma Roberts

CS Energy's Emma Roberts poses smiling in front of lush green foliage
Emma Roberts (Image: Nadia Howland)

Energy Source & Distribution gets to know CS Energy’s acting executive general manager of future energy, Emma Roberts.

Emma, you started your career as a lawyer and are currently acting executive general manager of future energy at CS Energy. Tell us a bit about how you got from A to B:

When I finished high school my career interests were quite broad, so I studied both environmental science and law. I worked as a lawyer for about 10 years, mostly in intellectual property law and mergers and acquisitions, when I decided that it was time for a change, so I accepted an in-house counsel role at CS Energy. A lot of people told me that once you get into the energy sector you don’t leave, and I now understand why they said that. It’s such as fascinating industry. Electricity is an essential commodity and it also happens to be incredibly complex. Strangely, my environmental science degree has also become relevant to my current work. Making energy simple, affordable and reliable for our customers is something I find really interesting.

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What does your role entail? Is there a crystal ball involved?

I lead CS Energy’s Future Energy division, which is spearheading the development of a new low-cost, decarbonised and flexible energy portfolio to meet our customers’ needs. This includes investments in renewable energy offtakes, renewable hydrogen and potentially batteries and other energy technologies. Where possible, these investments will be located near our existing power stations, so that we make best use of our skilled workforce and the available land, water and grid connection. 

Our job in the Future Energy division is realising the second half of CS Energy’s purpose statement—Delivering energy today, powering your tomorrow. We are developing creative solutions for Queensland’s future energy future requirements. There is definitely some crystal ball-gazing involved but there are lots of capable people in CS Energy who help fashion forecasts and trends into concrete opportunities for the business.

What are the main challenges for the Future Energy team at CS Energy?

The main challenge is the pace of change, which is something everyone in the sector is facing. The energy industry is evolving rapidly into a completely different marketplace from the traditional energy value chain of the past few decades.

Tell us a bit about some of the team’s milestone moments, e.g. the Renewable Hydrogen Project near Kogan Creek:

The first step in our diversification journey was entering into the retail joint venture with Alinta Energy in 2017, which provides retail electricity to household and small business customers in South East Queensland. 

We then set up our own retail desk for large commercial and industry retail market, establishing a sizeable market share in a relatively short period of time by offering customers tailored energy solutions.

The most recent highlight was the announcement that CS Energy will build a renewable hydrogen demonstration plant next to Kogan Creek Power Station. Renewable hydrogen presents enormous opportunities for Queensland and it’s exciting to be part of it.

What do you wish more people understood about the energy industry?

That it’s not always easy getting electricity from A to B. People rightly take it for granted that when they flick a switch, electricity is there. 

With the Queensland Government recently committing to a net-zero 2050 target, has this altered the strategic course for CS Energy?

No. CS Energy’s strategy launched in 2017 and updated in 2019 always contemplated the shift to renewable energy, and that diversifying our assets and revenue streams was essential for the business.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I have a seven-year-old daughter who takes up the rest of my time.

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How has the pandemic affected your work the past couple of years, and what are your predictions for 2022?

COVID-19 has sped up the pace of change in the energy sector. We’ve witnessed a rapid acceleration towards decarbonisation from both our competitors and customers. The pandemic hasn’t stopped our team from doing anything, it’s just emphasised the urgency and strategic importance of what we do.

I don’t think anyone at the end of 2020 could have predicted what was to come in 2021. But if I was going to make a prediction for the Queensland energy sector I would say that there will continue to be significant activity in 2022. In particular, the Queensland Government will continue to progress applications for its Queensland Renewable Energy and Hydrogen Jobs Fund, which will ultimately result in a huge amount of funding for the sector.

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