Canada: Powerful Women: Paula Conboy
Last Updated: August 14 2019

We are pleased to profile Paula Conboy, Chair of the Australian Energy Regulator, in our ongoing Powerful Women series.

Paula has over 20 years' experience in public utility regulation in Australia and Canada. After starting her career at the Industry Commission in Australia, Paula moved to Canada and joined the Ontario Energy Board as a senior staff member. She later held several positions at PowerStream Inc., including Vice-President of Regulatory and Government Affairs. In 2010, Paula was appointed to the OEB as a full-time member where she oversaw policy development and adjudicated applications for cost of service, performance-based regulation, mergers and acquisitions, and leave to construct electricity and gas networks. In 2014, she was appointed as the Chair of the AER.

In this interview, Paula shares her insight on the challenges facing the energy sector and offers five pieces of advice to women starting their careers in the industry.

1. How did you originally get involved in energy-related work?

Fate really.

I started out as an agricultural economist and worked with the (then) Industry Commission in Australia. My first piece of work was a quantitative analysis of the labour tally system in an Australian abattoir. The on-site part of that project was one I will never forget. The other part of that work that will always stay with me was having to present my findings of labour inefficiency to a room full of abattoir operators (picture big burly men with cuts and bruises and fingers missing). This was an early lesson in the importance of knowing your audience!

I then moved on to the relative safety of the water industry at Sydney Water Corporation for a couple of years before returning to Canada and joining the staff at the Ontario Energy Board. With five years under my belt at the OEB, I hopped the fence to work for Markham Hydro and had many fulfilling years as we grew the company to become PowerStream.  

After (I think) seven years at PowerStream, I was appointed to the OEB where I served four years of my five-year term. But the beaches and bush of Australia were calling me back, and in 2014, I was appointed as Chair of the Australian Energy Regulator. I also sit on the Energy Security Board that was formed in 2017 to coordinate the implementation of the Australian Chief Scientist's recommendations addressing the future of the Australian energy industry.

I can't say that all these moves were part of a carefully planned trajectory. They weren't. They were a result of creating opportunities as well as developing and maintaining a good professional network. Oh, and having the courage to swim out of my depth...

2. What do you see as the key challenges facing the energy sector today and going forward?

Jurisdictions around the world are facing the challenges and opportunities of energy sectors in transition towards the "four Ds": decarbonization, democratization, digitization and decentralization.

As we chase the goal to decarbonize the sector, issues of affordability, reliability and security of supply need to be addressed. The increased penetration of zero marginal cost renewable generation, including large scale wind and solar, is wreaking havoc on the economics of conventional, synchronous generators.

The technological transformation of the generation sector away from coal towards more renewables means that it is critical that we have sufficient, flexible generation capacity to fill the gaps when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing. The Energy Security Board is developing the Retailer Reliability Obligation – a mechanism that will help ensure Australia has enough dispatchable capacity available when and where we need it.

In addition, it is also important that we develop mechanisms to ensure ongoing system stability. As we transition away from traditional, synchronous generation, we will need to develop new markets that ensure that sufficient stability services such as inertia and frequency control can continue to be provided to protect our electricity system.

Over 2 million Australian households now have solar PV on their rooftops and the costs of battery storage are falling quickly. The rapid deployment of distributed energy resources (DER) is catalyzing the decentralization and democratization of the sector. We are moving away from a linear supply chain to a multi-directional 'transactive' system with embedded information technology and artificial intelligence. The 100-year-old poles and wires business model of the network companies is no longer valid.  

We are also seeing new entrants with innovative propositions. These businesses are offering energy monitoring and management services and hardware, real-time or fast-responding demand management technologies, aggregation businesses, and more. Their diversity means that their impacts on networks vary considerably. Overall, we are looking to find ways to optimize the use of DER to the benefit of all energy consumers.

The digitization required to optimize millions of decentralized assets and connected devices in play throughout the grid is phenomenal. That means we need to create systems and governance to regulate access to the massive amounts of high-quality data.

One thing is for certain, as a regulator, it's important to support these consumer driven transitions, but stay mindful of our role in protecting their long-term interests.

3. What are the key challenges and opportunities that you see for women as leaders?

One of the key challenges for many women leaders (and men leaders who are taking on a greater role in the family) is work-life integration. I don't like the term "work-life balance" because it suggests a static equilibrium where work and life are equal. But work, family, exercise and play will always be fluid. If you try to balance them, you risk feeling defeated and guilty. These elements will always be out of balance, the challenge is to look at them over time to ensure that you're getting what you want.

There are more opportunities for women in leadership roles. And, there are a lot of great women leaders paving the way for younger women and re-defining what makes a great leader. Companies and agencies are beginning to recognize that diversity of skills and experience are needed in the energy sector – creating greater opportunities for women with different skills and ways of thinking. This is especially important in an industry that is changing so rapidly.

4. What advice do you have for a woman starting her career in the energy sector?

I'd share the following five pieces of advice:

  1. The importance of building your network encompasses connecting with people who don't think the same way you do.
  2. Support and empower other women. As you climb the corporate ladder, be the one that extends a hand to lift up another woman. That karma will flow back to you one day.
  3. Step out of your comfort zone, stay open-minded and create your own opportunities.
  4. Maintain a growth mindset. If you feel out of your depth, realize that tomorrow will be a little easier, next week a little more. And in a year, you're bound to look back at what you've done with great pride.
  5. Don't underestimate your own abilities. I once heard Australia's former Prime Minister Julia Gillard say "I have been in many meetings where I have thought that man's confidence is way out of kilter with his competence whereas that woman's competence is way of kilter with her confidence."

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Press Releases from this Firm
Recent Content from this Firm
By David Stevens
By David Stevens, Emily Chittick
By David Stevens, Emily Chittick
By Aaron Baer
By David Stevens
By Donald Carr
By Jeremy Burke, Vernon Lin
By Kathryn Esaw, Miranda Spence
By Francesco Gucciardo
By David Stevens
Font Size:
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions