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Here are the answers to a few frequently asked questions

The courses cater for 12 to 20 participants, although we prefer to cap registrations at 16 (providing four groups of four participants. Each course is spread out over seven weeks to allow time to reflect, question and discuss with colleagues. Participants are required to attend a one-day session each week for the full eight weeks, and complete a range of out-of-class reading and preparation.

Why 8 weeks?

Gaining true understanding of the electricity industry cannot happen in a few days. While most of the detail could be communicated more quickly, meaningful learning takes time. We use simulations, demonstrations, group discussions and debates extensively and it’s important that these aren’t rushed.

Our courses are intensive and spread out to allow:

  • time for reflection on the complex concepts
  • the chance to apply the concepts in every day life
  • participants to discuss their learning with colleagues
  • more interactivity and hands-on learning
  • less disruption to participants’ work days

“Tell me and I forget; Show me and I may remember; Involve me and I’ll understand.”
Chinese Proverb

Further, there is a limit to the amount of new information and learning people can take in at any one time.

Co-founder Stephen Batstone has delivered hundreds of lectures and workshops/tutorials (at University, and in the industry). In his experience, training sessions become less effective after 3-4 hours.  A full day is only possible with a sensible mix of hands-on training, demonstrations, group discussions, as well as “delivered” material.  Earlier Whiteboard courses were spread over two half days, which were possibly superior from a learning perspective, but feedback from the participants indicated that they were potentially more disruptive to the working week.  For now, we have moved to a one-day structure, and will continuously monitor the impact on learning.

Most importantly, the week-long gaps between sessions give you the chance to make, and solidify, the new neural connections. This is also why we often go over material again in the following week, using different examples and teaching methods.

Can I just select the sessions that are of interest to me? 

In short, no. The value you’ll get from this course is in understanding the interdependencies between each aspect of the electricity industry, customers, portfolio management, and investment. While the course is broadly broken into seven topics, each week’s material will build on the week before, and anticipate what is yet to be learned. This means it’s important that you attend every session. The final week – the Dragon’s Den – will necessarily draw on all that you have learned, not just a selection.

What will I learn?

Below are some of the key questions we will discuss during Whiteboard’s Welcome to the Electricity Industry course.  Don’t read too much into the order here, as these questions are highly interdependent!

  • What fundamentally drives electricity demand?  How does it relate to national wealth and prosperity?
  • How was NZ’s electricity system built up?  What were the key decisions?
  • How do you trade off local generation with remote generation plus transmission and/or distribution?
  • Why did economies of scale drive us towards a complex interconnected electricity system?  How does this allow us to use security and reliability management to meet customers’ expectations about supply?
  • How do you manage hydro reservoirs?  What impact does this have on the market and the system?  What about other fuels – wind, geothermal, coal and gas?
  • What were the key turning points for the way in which we regulate/govern the industry?  What’s the current framework?  What are the alternatives?
  • What’s the history behind ownership of electricity assets?
  • What’s the role of the wholesale market?  How do you integrate it with security and reliability management?  What behavioural incentives does it create? How do prices behave?  What drives volatility?  Is it changing?
  • What other channels to the customer exist?  What are the sorts of contracts and what incentives do they create?
  • How does the retail market work?  Where does metering fit in?
  • How does a generator-retailer manage value and risk?  How do we measure it?  What is hedging?  What role do futures play?
  • What drives grid and generation investment?  What must I demonstrate in an investment business case?

Vanessa Stevens
"'Welcome to the Electricity Industry' broadened my knowledge on the electricity industry, giving me a good base for my day to day work. I have found that it enables me to understand the company I work for in more detail and why certain issues are important."