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Business Solutions

Goal: Business Solutions Group’s focus on key sectors of Australian policy and economy contributes to zero lives lost through extreme weather and delivers $1 billion in new economic impact and value for Australia.

The Business Solutions Group leads the Bureau in improving customer engagement and business systems to deliver an outstanding experience for its customers. The Group has an enterprise-wide focus on improving the Bureau’s customer-facing skills, systems and processes to promote customer interactions that are more responsive and business-like. It also leads the enterprise in customer engagement across focus sectors, namely: agriculture; aviation, land and maritime transport; energy and resources; national security; and water. By strengthening the Bureau’s relationships and service offerings, the Group aims to ensure that customers value the Bureau as an essential business partner, delivering measurable impact and value every day.

For 2020–21, the Group consisted of five programs with the following responsibilities:

Program

Responsibilities

Agriculture

Deepening the Bureau’s relationships

Developing a deep understanding of the sector and its needs

Delivering responsive, coordinated, world-class services

Aviation, Land and Maritime Transport

Energy and Resources

National Security

Water

An additional program, International Development, was foreshadowed in the Bureau’s 2020–21 Corporate Plan. Significant progress in advancing the goals of that program were made throughout the year, although formal establishment of the program was postponed until 2021–22 pending resolution of COVID-19–related uncertainties.

Throughout 2020–21, the Business Solutions Group focused on the delivery of four outcomes that support the delivery of the Bureau’s Strategy and purpose. The Group’s achievement in delivering each of these outcomes is discussed below.

Outcome 1: The Bureau enables the Commonwealth and our customers to deliver on their objectives, to a value of $1 billion and zero lives lost.

Achieving the outcome

Delivering tailored climate and extreme weather information to the electricity sector

The Electricity Sector Climate Information (ESCI) project commenced in March 2019 and concluded in June. The $6.1 million project was initiated in response to the Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market: Blueprint for the Future (the ‘Finkel Review’) as a collaboration between the Bureau, CSIRO and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), with oversight by the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.

The ESCI project delivered tailored climate and extreme weather information, guidance and insights for use by the electricity sector to more confidently assess the risks that climate change and extreme weather events present to sector investments, system reliability and resilience.

The ESCI climate data, user guidance and case studies are available through the Climate Change in Australia website at: www.climatechangeinaustralia.gov.au/en/projects/esci.

Helping customers prepare for the tropical cyclone season

In November, Perth-based staff completed their annual ‘tour’ of the Pilbara to brief community and industry customers about the coming cyclone season. The tour plays an important part in ensuring communities are aware of the threat associated with cyclones, understand the Bureau’s cyclone warning services and make appropriate preparations for any cyclones that do eventuate. It also provides a valuable opportunity for the Bureau to increase its understanding of customer operations and needs, how they are impacted by cyclones, and to gain feedback on what improvements they would like to see within forecast products.

Interest had grown for this year’s tour as Australia had not seen a La Niña event of this strength for nearly 10 years. Travelling more than 1000 km by road, the tour included visits to Port Hedland, Onslow, Dampier and Cape Preston to visit customers in the resources industry, emergency services, radio stations, hospitals and schools to spread the seasonal outlook message.

A bulk iron ore carrier being loaded in Port Hedland
A bulk iron ore carrier being loaded in Port Hedland

Future-focused aviation products

To improve the efficiency of aviation industry operations, the Bureau successfully implemented a new digital form of aviation products known as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Meteorological Information Exchange Model (IWXXM) in November. The new format removes human error from message coding and supports flexible consumption of products, including machine-to-machine information sharing and advanced decision-making. The exchange of meteorological information in IWXXM form is aligned with the ICAO Global Air Navigation Plan and the future aviation operating environment.

A single, highly responsive aerodrome forecast – TAF3 – was also introduced in November at 10 major airports and eight military aerodromes across Australia, providing alignment with international standards. TAF3 is issued routinely every three hours and receives priority, proactive amendments to ensure it contains the latest forecast information, ensuring a single accurate forecast is available for the aerodrome.

Modelling sewer chokes to limit environmental impacts and to lower costs

The Bureau partnered with Sydney Water to develop new capability to predict chokes in its 26 350 km of wastewater (sewer) pipes. Chokes are commonly caused by tree roots growing into pipes in search of water, and can lead to sewage overflows, causing environmental damage and resulting in fines for water utilities.

Output from the Australian Water Resources Assessment Landscape Model (AWRA-L) found a correlation between the number of chokes and soil moisture levels . Using these findings, a model was developed to predict the likelihood of sewer chokes occurring at various points within the wastewater network based on factors including catchment wetness and dryness from AWRA-L, pipe size, pipe depth and past maintenance activities.

Early analysis and testing of the model has been encouraging, and the development team are now producing risk maps to enable Sydney Water’s maintenance teams to undertake preventative maintenance in sections of the network where chokes caused by tree roots are likely occur.

Continued demand for water information to support drought response and resource management

Australia’s water operators use the Bureau’s services to inform high-impact decision-making and optimise their water supplies. One dam operator advised they used more than 30 Bureau products on a daily basis to inform critical decisions on water releases, staff rostering and safety management.

Overall, the Bureau’s water information products were used more than 600 000 times in 2020–21, with high-impact products such as Design Rainfalls, the National Water Account and the Urban National Performance Report recording an increase in year-on-year usage. The centralisation of Australia’s water information significantly reduces transactions costs in decision-making for customers, who range from federal policy agencies through to small businesses and individuals.

Infographic showing the usage of key water services. In 2020-21 over 500 000 key water services were used.

Deploying new operational capability for the Australian Defence Force

During the year, the Bureau successfully deployed new dedicated high-resolution ocean forecasts for the Australian Defence Force (ADF). The ADF conducts missions both within and beyond Australia’s borders and must operate in a wide range of environmental conditions. Previously, the information available to the ADF on conditions beyond Australia’s border was limited by relatively coarse global forecasts, which increased the potential risks to personnel safety, defence assets and mission success. The new high-resolution forecasts provide information that can restore a tactical advantage over a potential adversary. This service is the first to be developed through the Australian Defence Environmental Prediction Tool (ADEPT) project which also includes enhanced atmospheric and wave models. ADEPT aims to roll out a suite of systems in the future that will further assist the ADF in meeting its strategic and operational requirements.

Supporting disaster mitigation in the Pacific

Pacific Island countries are vulnerable to a wide range of extreme weather, climate and ocean events which can have devastating impacts on communities through loss of life and damage to infrastructure, homes, agricultural lands, livelihoods, industries and economies. In July and August the Bureau briefed the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) on areas of the Pacific likely to be most impacted by a potential La Niña event. The small island countries near the equator – Nauru, Kiribati and Tuvalu – were of most concern as conditions had already been very dry.

In some areas, June 2020 rainfall had been in the lowest 10 per cent ever recorded. The Bureau forecast that rainfall would be 100–400 mm below normal across the region over September to November, representing moderate to extreme anomalies for the region.

The Bureau also worked with its Pacific partners to prepare a decadal plan of investments to address critical gaps and comprehensively strengthen the hydro-meteorological system in the Pacific and support a sustainable and harmonised regional approach.

Highlights and significant events

Integrating water data through the Murray–Darling Basin Water Information Portal

The Murray–Darling Basin Water Information Portal was successfully launched in June, providing a one-stop shop for information on available water, allocation volumes, water use, water trade and prices, environmental water, weather and climate relevant to the Basin. Previously, this information was only available from multiple separate sources, making it difficult for communities, water users and other customers to access all the information they need.

By delivering more accessible water information, the portal improves understanding of water availability and use across the Basin that will lead to better water management. Automatic updates allow users to access the latest available information and provides links to other State, Territory and Commonwealth water agency web pages.

The Portal, designed using a community-driven approach, was built by the Bureau in partnership with the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA), the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, and relevant State governments.

Screenshot from MDBA Portal
Screenshot from MDBA Portal

Next steps

Key activities to be delivered in 2021–22 to help achieve Outcome 1 include:

  • releasing an update to the Murray–Darling Basin Water Information Portal
  • providing actionable climate and resilience information through an interactive, digital platform tailored to the needs of farmers and the agriculture sector
  • enhancing Australia’s national security response via support of the ‘Meteorological 5-eyes’ international community of practice.

Outcome 2: Bureau priorities reflect highest impact customer needs.

Achieving the outcome

Engaging with the aviation industry

Active engagement with the local aviation industry returned through the Regional Aviation Roadshow Series, coordinated by the Regional Aviation Association of Australia. Events in Mildura in March and Dubbo in May provided opportunities for the Bureau to hear from customers about their recent experiences and learn how the Bureau can best continue to support aviation customers as the industry begins its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bureau partnered with other government agencies to attend the FlySafe Forum, convened by Civil Aviation Safety Authority, as part of the industry education and engagement program designed to help maintain Australia’s world-leading aviation safety record. The forum attracts pilots and airline operators from across the aviation industry, making it an incredibly valuable opportunity to hear a diversity of views about which aviation products operators are using and where the Bureau should focus its industry education and engagement efforts. The forum also provides an opportunity for the Bureau to understand how the Australian aviation market is changing and the challenges aviation customers are facing.

Infographic showing the number of aviation forecast products delivered by the Bureau each year. In 2020-21 almost 2 million aviation forecasts were delivered.

Improving solar observations data to support Australia’s energy industry

Australia’s energy generators, distributors and market operators, and the consumers that depend on them, need accurate, timely and highly spatially-resolved solar radiation data to efficiently and safely manage the ever-growing contribution of solar-generated electricity to our energy needs. To meet this need, the Bureau developed and implemented an advanced solar model that generates gridded solar irradiance observations in real-time with high spatial (2 km grid) and temporal (10-minute) resolution, combining satellite, numerical weather prediction and aerosol data. Satellite data are constantly calibrated using data from the Bureau’s ground station observation network to ensure their accuracy, reliability and availability in near-real-time. The availability of these data will help the energy market better manage the grid, via improved understanding of the rapidly changing impacts of solar radiation on electricity supply and demand.

Maintaining our focus on service quality

The Energy and Resources Program successfully achieved certification of compliance for their quality management system (QMS) to the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) 9001:2015 Quality Management Standard in May. Development of the Energy and Resources QMS was driven by the need to meet customer requirements and support the Bureau’s position to provide high-quality, high-impact products and services. The ISO 9001:2015 standard provides a strong framework to plan and manage the Bureau’s business, prioritise effort and ensure good change management, succession planning and knowledge transfer.

Deepening our engagement with Australia’s national security architecture

In March, the Meteorological Intelligence Support Team was established within Defence
Headquarters Joint Operations Command to provide a direct Bureau access point, enabling Defence to better leverage the Bureau’s full capability across tactical, operational and strategic dimensions. The Bureau also provided vital intelligence support to government agencies through the Global Seasonal Outlook, seasonal tropical cyclone briefings and desktop scenarios ahead of the severe weather season, and created a National Security Statement of Ambition to clearly define our priorities.

An independent view of how Australia’s water utilities are performing

The Bureau’s Urban National Performance Review (NPR) supports the commitments made by States and Territories under the National Water Initiative to report publicly and independently on the performance of water utilities. In an industry of natural monopolies, the NPR simulates competition across the water sector, motivating utilities to consistently reach for higher levels of productivity and customer service. It compares the performance of organisations providing urban water services to over 23 million Australians and is estimated to yield a value of $30–40 million per annum.

The 2020 Urban NPR publication showed that for a fifth consecutive year, residential water bills remained steady across Australia. The national median bill decreased by 2 per cent since 2018–19 despite an increase in water demand related to the warm and dry conditions experienced during 2019–20.

Benchmarking of urban water utilities is being improved with a review of the indicators used to evaluate water utility performance.
Benchmarking of urban water utilities. is being improved with a review of the indicators used to evaluate water utility performance.

Highlights and significant events

Bureau data supports the first flight of the Loyal Wingman

With Bureau support, Boeing Australia and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) successfully completed the first test flight of the Loyal Wingman un-crewed aircraft in March. The aircraft provides a foundation for the development of Boeing’s Airpower Teaming System and uses artificial intelligence to enable it to fly alongside other crewed and un-crewed aircraft. The Loyal Wingman is also the first military aircraft to be designed and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years.

In the lead-up to the flight, the Bureau provided additional weather balloon flights, transferring the vital data to the project team who worked within very strict temperature and wind limits, both on the surface and at the flight altitude.

Following a series of taxi tests validating ground handling, navigation and control, and pilot interface, the aircraft completed a successful take-off under its own power before flying a pre-determined route at different speeds and altitudes. The aircraft flew under the supervision of a Boeing test pilot who monitored the aircraft from a ground control station at the RAAF Woomera Range Complex in South Australia.

An upgrade of the Woomera balloon launcher scheduled for later in 2021 will support future remote exercises as well as contributing to the Bureau’s local and national weather services.

The Boeing Australia Airpower Teaming System ‘Loyal Wingman’ conducts its first flight at the Woomera Range Complex in South Australia (Department of Defence).
The Boeing Australia Airpower Teaming System ‘Loyal Wingman’ conducts its first flight at the Woomera Range Complex in South Australia (Department of Defence).

Supporting the Australian space industry and Mission Control Centre

In June, the Australian Government announced a $6 million Space Infrastructure Fund grant for Saber Astronautics Australia to operationalise Australia’s Mission Control Centre in Adelaide. In partnership with Saber, the Bureau provided real-time space weather information for their next-generation space mission control technologies. This integration of real-time space weather information into a mission control centre is a world first for a commercial company.

Collaboration between the Bureau’s Space Weather Services team and Saber informed the design of a range of suitable forecast, alert and warning products for the mission control platform. The Mission Control Centre now has ready access to vital information on solar wind, flares, and electromagnetic emissions that could cause significant disruption to the critical infrastructure on which the space industry relies, such as satellites, GPS navigation and timing systems, and high-frequency telecommunications networks used by aviation and Defence.

This partnership delivers space weather information for managing spacecraft missions safely and effectively, and provides a strong foundation for growing the Australian space sector as well as expanding opportunities for the Bureau with other industry participants.

The Prime Minister, the Hon Scott Morrison MP speaks to the Bureau’s National Manager of Space Weather Services Dr Sarah Spackman at the opening of the Mission Control Centre.
The Prime Minister, the Hon Scott Morrison MP speaks to the Bureau’s National Manager of Space Weather Services Dr Sarah Spackman at the opening of the Mission Control Centre.

Next steps

Key activities to be delivered in 2021–22 to help achieve Outcome 2 include:

  • partnering with Commonwealth, State and Territory agencies, and the Australian water industry to review the Bureau’s contributions to national water reform and develop a roadmap for the next decade
  • delivering the key activities articulated in the National Security Statement of Ambition, including through the establishment of a space weather customer engagement hub in Adelaide, and enhancing the accuracy of ocean forecasts for the Royal Australian Navy
  • maturing the Bureau’s product management system to strengthen product development, enhancement and retirement in accordance with customer needs.

Outcome 3: The Bureau is a partner of choice for our customers and stakeholders.

Achieving the outcome

Helping build the capacity of our closest neighbour

Under the Papua New Guinea Capacity Development Project, the Bureau is partnering with the Papua New Guinea National Weather Service (PNGNWS) to strengthen its governance and strategic planning, restore the country’s surface observation network and develop forecaster capacity to support aviation.

Under the five-year initiative, funded by DFAT, Bureau staff have delivered self-paced, online training to PNGNWS observers and technicians on the restoration, calibration, verification and maintenance of surface sites. This approach was tailored to overcome the challenges of international travel restrictions, limited communications infrastructure and IT networks on capacity development activities.

Partnering to improve energy sector outcomes in Queensland

In November, the Bureau and Powerlink signed a Strategic Relationship Agreement for the delivery of improved services to support weather-based planning and decision-making for Queensland’s transmission network. Powerlink owns and operates the assets that carry Queensland’s electricity long distances at high voltages, providing the critical link between generators, industrial customers and the distribution network that takes lower-voltage electricity to and from local users. Increased generation of distributed energy from wind and solar is making network electricity flows much more complex and weather dependent.

The partnership will enable Powerlink to identify priority areas of focus and drive solutions to support the safe and reliable day-to-day operation of the energy network, and provide Powerlink with insights into weather data, models and forecast trends to support planning for the future transmission network. Formalising the partnership is a natural follow-on from Powerlink’s first project with the Bureau which involved developing ‘near real-time’ solar irradiance information within Australia.

Leadership in water standards underpins a productive water sector

The Bureau engaged with partners across the water sector to develop consistent standards, helping to reduce transaction costs in a highly fragmented industry. This cooperation was facilitated through the Jurisdictional Reference Group for Water Information which meets twice a year and represents the largest of the 236 agencies who supply the Bureau with water data. The Bureau also continued to work closely with the Water Monitoring Standardisation Technical Committee in preparing national water resource monitoring standards and guidelines.

Developing air quality forecasts for the resources industry

The Bureau partnered with resources company BHP to better understand the behaviour of dust around its mining operations. The collaborative project is exploring the root causes of air quality challenges at key monitoring sites and seeks to develop a forecasting capability and a product set that supports operational decision-making. The project will contribute to BHP’s Air Quality Roadmap for Newman Operations, which anticipates expenditure of more than $230 million over the next five years to implement dust mitigation work across its Eastern Ridge and Whaleback sites.

Highlights and significant events

Informing better decisions for Australia’s agriculture sector

The Australian Government’s $5 billion Future Drought Fund provides secure, continuous funding for drought resilience initiatives, aimed at helping Australian farms and communities prepare for the impacts of drought. The highly successful Australian Government-funded Climate Guides project was an example of the types of services required by the sector with the Future Drought Fund again engaging the Bureau and CSIRO to deliver the $10 million Climate Services for Agriculture Program.

Supported by strong relationships with colleagues across CSIRO, the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment and the agriculture sector, the program will deliver vital tools and an underpinning data platform to support farmers and agricultural advisors to better understand the changing environment in which they operate. This will provide a central location for climate insights that can be immediately applied to any farm business in Australia and enable producers to make more informed decisions that enhance their resilience to climate variability and change, and increase their profitability. The tools will be built using an iterative co-design method with farmers and their advisers.

A screenshot from the Climate Services for Agriculture website
A screenshot from the Climate Services for Agriculture website

Next steps

Key activities to be delivered in 2021–22 to help achieve Outcome 3 include:

  • undertaking a National Coordination Mechanism Space Weather Exercise and preparing a Space Weather Action Plan with government and industry to mitigate the effects of a severe space weather event
  • developing climate and hydrological projections for the National Water Grid Authority to support evidence-based decision-making on water infrastructure investments
  • continuing delivery of the Climate Services for Agriculture Program initiative.

Outcome 4: Business Solutions Group is a healthy, diverse, engaged workforce supporting a customer-focused organisation.

Achieving the outcome

Building our relationship management capability

Customer relationship managers met our 20 highest impact water sector customers, including Commonwealth and State government water agencies and bulk water authorities. The relationship managers provide a single point of contact, developing a deep understanding of the customers’ organisations and coordinating streamlined and efficient delivery of services. This removes the need for customers having to navigate the Bureau to find the right expert, data, analysis or forecast, significantly improving customer experience.

Planning for the future with the Australian Defence Force

The delivery of meteorological services on key Defence-managed aerodromes has been a long and enduring partnership between the Bureau and the ADF. This year the Bureau developed a new workforce plan to ensure it could continue to deliver this service long into the future. As part of the plan, the National Security Program secured three new graduate staff, the first graduates recruited for the team, with the number to grow further in 2021–22.

Capturing and sharing customer insights to deliver higher value

The Bureau continued to roll out customer relationship management (CRM) software to ensure it can consistently provide an outstanding and seamless customer experience. The CRM will provide our people with more effective tools for managing their customer engagements, introduce new ways of collaborating within and across teams, and streamline our approach to customer engagement.

Teams in the Business Solutions Group were among the first to pilot the CRM, including a new module to capture, store and share customer insights. The module supports the Bureau’s customer-facing staff to capture feedback on existing products and services, as well as document information on unmet customer needs. The module provides a central resource of customer intelligence that can then be used by any area in the Bureau to develop new opportunities, refine projects that are underway and target improvements to existing products.

Next steps

Key activities to be delivered in 2021–22 to help achieve Outcome 4 include:

  • enhancing our customer experience capability through the completion of Customer Engagement Intermediate Training by all customer-facing staff
  • facilitating a secondment from the Department of Defence’s Science and Technology Group to increase the Bureau’s connections with national security agencies as experts in meteorological intelligence and research
  • establishing a Customer Engagement Community of Practice to identify and troubleshoot issues related to Bureau customer experiences
  • promoting systematic use of enterprise customer discovery methods, archetypes, segmentation information and existing market intelligence.