Spotlight On: Ausgrid CEO Marc England

Close up of Ausgrid CEO Marc England smiling
Marc England (Image: Ausgrid)

Energy Source & Distribution sits down with Ausgrid’s newly minted CEO Marc England, who has been busy getting to know the staff and systems behind the National Electricity Market’s largest energy distributor.

arc England joined Ausgrid in January, hopping across the pond from New Zealand where he was CEO of publicly listed Genesis Energy. He says he’s excited to call Sydney home again, having lived in the city between 2013-16 while working for AGL Energy. 

“I’ve lived and worked all over the world, both as a child and as an adult,” he says of his nomadic life.

Related article: Ausgrid installs Australia’s first power pole EV charger

Marc England (Image: Ausgrid)

“I grew up in Asia, Africa and the United States before moving to the United Kingdom for most of my secondary and tertiary education. I married an Aussie in 2003, who grew up on a farm near Cootamundra, and we’ve been coming back and forth for 20 years now.”

Marc’s career has branched across oil and gas, automotive and energy, however, he’s spent the past 17 years working in the energy supply sector at Centrica, AGL Energy and Genesis Energy. 

“I was studying for an MBA in London in 1999 when I met a very diverse group of people who really showed me the diversity of career choices available,” he explains.

“I fell into engineering as the subjects were closely aligned to those I enjoyed at school, but once I began understanding broader business dynamics, I realised my interests were elsewhere. 

“I still really enjoy working with engineers and anyone who deeply understands a discipline. I’ve found across the regions I’ve worked; western countries tend to undervalue the role of engineers so not enough people make it their career as opposed to countries like France and Germany, where engineers hold the same respect and standing as doctors. 

“Hopefully this will change as people realise the role engineers will play in the innovations that we need to move toward a lower carbon future.” 

Having hit the ground running at Ausgrid, Marc has been getting to know as many team members as possible across the network. 

“We are an incredibly broad and diverse business, with people doing amazing work across such a large range of disciplines. It’s been great to get to know the capabilities and innovations happening every day.

“Ausgrid’s network is also geographically dispersed and varied, with each region having its own challenges and opportunities. From south Sydney all the way up to the upper Hunter and many places in between, I’ve enjoyed being on the ground with our people to really understand the business.

“I’m very excited by the vital role the network plays in our energy system today—keeping our homes, schools and workplaces running. This role is set to only become more critical as the economy becomes more dependent on electricity to decarbonise, meaning the role of distributors will continue increasing in importance.”

Asked about New Zealand’s energy transition compared to Australia’s, Marc says, “We’re all facing similar opportunities and challenges, no matter which part of the energy sector we’re in or which country. Energy supply is front and centre of the fight against climate change. 

“New Zealand already has an electricity system supported by over 80 per cent renewables and is facing the real challenge of how to increase renewable electricity penetration while also remaining reliable and low cost—the much-vaunted trilemma. There will be trade-offs to make, and New Zealand may face them first. 

“Ausgrid will play a significant role in the electrification of New South Wales in pursuit of a net zero future. With the electricity system forecast to become over 80 per cent renewable by 2030, other energy vectors such as transport and industrial heat can be electrified, so we have an opportunity to all work together to have a meaningful impact on carbon reduction.”

Image: Ausgrid

“Our challenge everywhere is to make sure everyone, including politicians, regulators and the general public, understand some of the physical realities of renewable electricity and how we collectively find the lowest cost pathway to a low carbon economy without compromising reliability. Working together, across sectors and political divides is key to keeping the lights on in an affordable and sustainable way.”

Marc’s primary goal for Ausgrid is reinforcing a ‘people first’ approach.

“The main focus is ensuring we have a motivated, engaged and aligned workforce. This will help ensure Ausgrid continues to move forward as a purpose-driven business that can pursue growth and use our existing capabilities and infrastructure to deliver for our communities.”

The past 18 months have marked an exceptionally turbulent time for the Australian energy sector. I ask Marc what he hopes to see change on the regulatory front. 

“We’re all in this complex energy transition together—politicians, regulators, the private and public sector, organisations large and small,” he says.

“There has never been a more important time for alignment and collaboration. To achieve our collective goals, we need to listen to each other’s needs carefully to find the areas we can complement each other and drive a positive outcome for New South Wales and the country. 

“On top of this, the energy sector as whole needs stability and consistency from policy makers. We need to ensure we have alignment and a cohesive plan to keep moving forward to avoid impacting investment appetite and therefore longer-term outcomes

“I accepted the job with Ausgrid as these challenges also present exciting opportunities for networks to play a critical role in shaping the National Energy Market of the future.”

The energy sector is currently grappling with the effects of a major skills shortage in Australia. Marc says Ausgrid is doing its best to address this by investing in its extensive apprentice and graduate program.

“We are all facing the same challenges so we need to be careful not just poach talent from each other, which would be a zero-sum game for the industry,” he says.

“Through Ausgrid’s apprentice and graduate engineering program we are sourcing some of Australia’s best talent through both traditional and non-traditional pathways. Our team are consistently out talking to organisations big and small, universities, TAFE and schools to showcase the opportunities in the energy sector across a huge range of roles.”

Ausgrid has already launched a number of innovative new projects this year, including Australia’s first power pole-mounted EV charger and the east coast’s first community battery. 

“One of the first things I noticed when starting at Ausgrid is the organisation’s passion and commitment to finding ways to innovate,” Marc says of these initiatives. 

Image: Ausgrid

Related article: Ausgrid community batteries set to help energy market

“Many of the ongoing innovation programs are hugely impressive, including working with partners from across sectors to deliver innovative solutions for customers like the first community battery on the east coast, Australia’s first power pole-mounted EV charger and a trial of standalone power supply technology. 

“Ausgrid is focused on finding the best solutions to support the energy transition and our communities.

“I am excited to have returned to the Australian energy market at a critical juncture in the transition towards a sustainable future. I look forward to leading Ausgrid through the next phase of the company’s journey and ensuring electricity distribution plays an active role in shaping a net zero future.”

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