AGL chief economist Tim Nelson leaves to join market rule-maker

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AGL loses another key executive who saw the future of energy was in renewables.

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AGL has lost another senior executive who saw the future lay in renewable energy, with chief economist Tim Nelson to leave for a new role as head of economic analysis for the Australian Energy Markets Commission.

The departure of the long-serving Nelson (he joined in 2005), adds to a growing turnover at AGL, particularly of senior executives who were keen to guide the company to a clean energy future, despite the intense pressure from the Coalition government that it not close its ageing and increasingly decrepit Liddell coal-fired generator.

CEO Andy Vesey departed abruptly, and with no explanation, nearly a month ago, and on the same day as prime minister Malcolm Turnbull was rolled and replaced by Scott Morrison, who has declared his determination to stop closures of what he calls “fair dinkum” power.

Before that, AGL had closed its new energy division and said goodbye to its head, Elisabeth Brinton, and two weeks ago AGL announced the closure of its residential rooftop solar installation business.

Nelson’s shift to the AEMC may add to the perception that the country’s market rule maker is over-run by lawyers and economists, but Nelson has been a thought-leader in Australia on the clean energy transition through his blogs on the AGL web-site and presentations in webinars and conferences.

Among his most recent interventions was to dismiss the need for new “baseload” in NSW, and in demystifying demand response – the cheaper alternative to new peaking plants that some have nevertheless dismissed as “enforced blackouts”.

At the recent Smart Energy conference, Nelson noted that:

  • Only 1% of power stations in operation are older than 50 years old.
  • Renewables are increasingly cost-competitive with traditional ‘thermal’ sources such as coal and gas.
  • In the long-term, renewable energy is likely to be complemented by pumped hydro and battery storage to allow energy to be consumed at times when it is needed.
  • At AGL, Nelson managed the company’s public policy advocacy as well as sustainability and strategy. He is a member of Westpac’s Stakeholder Advisory Council and the Grattan Institute’s Energy Reference Group.
  • The AEMC noted Nelson had previously held a number of roles with the NSW Government and the Reserve Bank of Australia. Associate Professor Nelson is an associate professor at Griffith University. He holds a PhD in Economics from the University of New England for which he earned a Chancellor’s doctoral research medal.

The AEMC also announced that David Feeney, formerly of Telstra, would become head Retail and Wholesale Markets and will lead the team responsible for reviews and rule changes relating to the competitive parts of Australia’s electricity and gas sectors.

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