Q&A with our energy Guru

If you read articles about global energy trends, the growing market for renewable energy and the future for electric vehicles, it is very likely that the figures quouted are from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. A leading figure there – Seb Henbest – is a proud South Australian and he sat down with us for the latest of our Q&A series.

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Name: Seb Henbest

Job Title: Head of EMEA and Lead Author, New Energy Outlook

Company: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

What does a typical day for you involve?

My typical day starts with a morning commute. If I’m lucky I get a seat on the train. If I’m unlucky, I spend the 35 minutes to London Waterloo pressed into someone’s armpit. My job is to help shape BNEF’s energy research strategy, drive sales, and grow our business and influence across Europe, Middle East & Africa. Each day varies significantly — I could be editing a research note on EU power markets, interpreting results from consumer uptake modelling, bringing internal stakeholders together around a new business line, solving an HR issue, presenting research to clients, or keynoting an energy industry event.

How did you begin your career?

I was writing my honours thesis in Astrophysics at Adelaide University when I started to read more and more about climate change. I took my new interest seriously, and enrolled as a graduate student in the School of Atmospheric Science at Monash University in Melbourne. What I came to realise was that climate change is inextricably linked to energy, and the business of energy permeates the entire fabric of the modern economy. That took me to Cambridge to read International Relations where I specialised in environmental markets and wrote a thesis on the dynamics of the fledgling EU emissions trading scheme. In 2008 I joined a start-up research company called New Energy Finance. In my first year we were commissioned to develop a model for pricing CO2 in Australia under then PM Kevin Rudd’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS). This gave NEF a foothold in the Australian market, and in mid-2009 I relocated to Sydney to set up the firm’s Australia office. Early the next year, NEF was acquired by financial data and news company Bloomberg LP, to become Bloomberg NEF. I built-up BNEF in Australia for the next four years before returning to London in mid-2013 to head up the firm’s Europe, Middle East & Africa division and lead its long-term energy forecasting.

What’s your connection to South Australia?

I grew up on Waterfall Gully Road and all my family is based in Adelaide. I attended primary school at Pembroke, and senior school at St Peter’s College. I studied at Adelaide University for 6 years getting heavily involved in student politics — one of the few who didn’t go on to make a career in it… well, not yet anyway. My family and I travel back to Adelaide each summer to give the kids some blue sky, sandy beaches and sunshine, watch the cricket at Adelaide Oval, and perhaps most importantly, to drink my father-in-law’s fancy wine.

How did you become part of the South Australia Club?

I joined the South Australia Club in 2016 after attending the AFL Grand Final Lunch at Australia House. Let’s just say I may have “over-hedged” my bets in the silent auction and ended up with a signed Crows jersey, a signed Port Power jersey and a signed Phil Liggett “Helping Rhinos” cycling shirt. Got a photo with Phil to prove it. It also turned out I knew the then SA Club Convener, Serena Gasparini, whose father, Ori, coached the Burnside Premier League Hockey when I played back in the late ’90s.

Favourite South Australian wine?

Pretty much anything red from the Barossa Valley. Particularly partial to John Duval’s Entity Shiraz. It’s heavy, but wonderful. Kalleske too. Definitely not a rose’ drinker.

What do you enjoy most about the South Australia Club?

The South Australia Club is a great network of interesting people doing world-class things. There is a real diversity of careers, but everyone has one thing in common, and that’s genuine pride in the state and commitment to its long-term success. And when we all get together it’s invariably a great time, with plenty of good food and SA wine in a unique setting. The Annual Dinner is definitely one of my favourite events of the year.

Who do you think eats all the pies?

It’s not me. I’m allergic to pies.

Best networking advice – to give or have been given?

I don’t think you can go too far wrong if you show genuine interest in other people. The best networkers I know rarely worry about job titles or seniority and treat everyone, big or small, as just another person with a story to tell. I think that goes a long way.

What’s your hidden London gem?

Richmond Park. It’s big, beautiful and wild. There is no better place to walk a dog, fly a kite, or watch deer rut. Not that I know anywhere else in London you can watch deer rut, but still.