Enhancing the resilience of the Australian National Electricity Market: Taking a systems approach in policy development

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Journal Article
Ecology and Society, 2011, 16 (2)
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As the complexity and interconnectedness of present-day social-ecological systems become steadily more apparent, there is increasing pressure on governments, policy makers, and managers to take a systems approach to the challenges facing humanity. However, how can this be done in the face of system complexity and uncertainties? In this paper we briefly discuss practical ways that policy makers can take up the systems challenge. We focus on resilience thinking, and the use of influence diagrams, causal-loop diagrams, and system archetypes. As a case study, set in the context of the climate-energy-water nexus, we use some of these system concepts and tools to carry out an initial exploration of factors that can affect the resilience of the Australian National Electricity Market. We stress the need for the electricity sector to prepare for the impacts of global change by encouraging innovation and diversity, supporting modularity and redundancy, and embracing the need for a policy making approach that takes account of the dynamics of the wider social-ecological system. Finally, taking a longer term view, we conclude by recommending that policy makers work to reduce reliance on conventional market mechanisms, institute continuing crosssector dialogue, and promote basic education in system dynamics. © 2011 by the author(s).
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