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Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO)

4.4
  • 500 - 1,000 employees

Sera Tarpis

Engineering has given me the skills of technical problem solving, but the AEMO graduate program accepts a wide range of disciplines, including economics, commerce, law, mathematics, and IT.

What's your job about?

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) manages the electricity and gas systems and markets across Australia, helping to ensure Australians have access to affordable, secure and reliable energy. My role as a graduate engineer is to work across different teams in the business in a structured four-part graduate program. Right now, I am working in the Electricity Market Monitoring team. My job consists of looking at what the electricity market is doing, analysing pricing outcomes in the market and the impacts of different operating conditions, such as high wind and solar generation. I also have had projects looking at how rooftop solar impacts the power system, through things like how they respond in power system wobbles and if they help or hinder the operation of the power system. For me, the most fun part of my job is working with truly brilliant people in the company and across the industry to solve huge challenges like operating the power system at 100% renewable energy generation. My current rotation is looking at the market side of that, but the beauty of the AEMO graduate program is that I have the opportunity to examine this problem from an operational side as well as a stakeholder side.

What's your background?

I went to a public girls’ high school in Sydney, and I was a mega nerd, doing physics, chemistry and four unit maths for my HSC. In my last year of school, an engineer from Sydney Rail came and spoke to my physics class about her job, how she got to work on huge projects that helped peoples lives, how she got to work in a team doing technical studies in the office and on site. I was sold, engineering was the degree for me! I’m very passionate about climate action and decided to do a Bachelor of Renewable Energy Engineering at UNSW to be part of the solution to climate change. As a part of that degree, I got to go on exchange to Copenhagen to Denmark Technical University, implement a humanitarian engineering project in Fiji, and work with some of the pioneers of the renewable energy boom in Australia and across the globe. I also got to do two internships, one in Hobart at Hydro Tasmania and one at a rooftop solar training company called GSES. It was in University I learned about AEMO and knew immediately it was the place for me. Their unique position in the energy industry and the broad overview they have of the power system was what drew me in. At university, I had a lot of support from student societies and the careers office to get my interview and resume skills up, and was so pleased when I was accepted into the AEMO graduate program.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Absolutely! Engineering has given me the skills of technical problem solving, but the AEMO graduate program accepts a wide range of disciplines, including economics, commerce, law, mathematics, and IT. What you would need to do my job is a genuine curiosity in the complexities of the power system, creative problem solving skills, and good collaboration skills. The energy transition is an inter-disciplinary problem, so the more viewpoints and angles, the better!

What's the coolest thing about your job?

I love working on complex systems, which I get to do in my job everyday. There are the technical issues with the power system, including the differences in the way thermal coal and gas generators work compared with renewable energy inverter based systems. Then there are the market issues, like making sure that the most efficient market outcome is being achieved for consumers and generators are incentivised to act efficiently. Then there is the social and political level of making sure we are operating the power system now and into the future in a way that the Australian community is happy with. The kinds of moments that make me feel like I’m doing the right thing is when, for example, we get some really great analysis on rooftop solar behaviour during power system events that go back into operating the entire power system in the safest, most reliable way.

What are the limitations of your job?

Just as there are benefits to complexity, there are some limitations too. Some of the problems that AEMO works on have more than one good solution, and it can be very difficult working to find the best outcome internally and with the rest of industry because everyone has different viewpoints.

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...

  1. Even though you may think some of your assignments won’t translate to the real world, the skills you learn will always be applicable as you go on.
  2. Get involved! Through student societies, networking events, informational webinars and just getting out there, I learned a lot about different opportunities and how to get your foot in the door.
  3. Get some real life experience in the industry! Internships, summer jobs, or part-time experience is the best way to find out what you’re good at, what you need to work on, and what types of companies and projects you like to be involved in.