RGSQ Lecture Series
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Ian Mackinnon, BSc (Hons), PhD
Australian policy makers have been slow to understand the implications of past and continuing studies on climate change since the first USA Senate committee hearings in 1988 at which James Hansen testified. As noted by Hansen in his preface , “…Politicians are happy if scientists provide information and then go away ….. but science and policy cannot be divorced.” Today, Australia’s energy policies at State and Federal level offer an opportunity to deliver a powerful transformation that matches the impact of electricity transmission over 100 years ago. These policies and “announce-ables” suggest that by the 2040–2050 period regional communities may enjoy access to energy resources orders of magnitude greater than today. However, efficient use of energy generated, stored and used by low emissions technologies is at high risk if planning resorts to last century’s “business as usual”.
Two well established technologies, among many evolving rapidly, may greatly assist Australia’s energy transformation to a low emissions regime if deployed with careful thought. Best use of DC power and DC-DC conversion is a simple and effective first step in pathways to energy efficiency . New and efficient materials, such as superconductors, for transmission/distribution of electricity or for motors and generators  is also key to an energy efficient power system for Australia’s rewired grids. Combined with low to zero emissions practices, such as use of hybrid renewable energy systems for transport, manufacturing and/or sustainable waste recovery, Australians may – with care and attention – retain a high standard of living while minimizing the impacts of extreme climate conditions. This presentation outlines selected rapid transformations in the energy sector – currently a contributor to approximately 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions – in order to broaden discussion beyond business as usual.
References: 1: Hansen, J. “Storms of my Grandchildren”, Bloomsbury NY, 320pp., ISBN 978-1-60819-502-2, 2009. 2: Ertugrul, N. and D. Abbott, Proc. IEEE., 108(5) 651-624. 3: Mackinnon, I.D.R., and R.R. Taylor, The Conversation, February 7th, 2023.
Bio: Ian Mackinnon obtained his degrees at James Cook University and is the Founder and former Executive Director of the Institute for Future Environments as well as former Director of the Centre for Clean Energy Technologies and Practices at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Prior to his roles at QUT, Ian was Executive Director at the Australian Research Council responsible for driving collaboration between universities and industry. Among many outcomes for the SE QLD region, Ian established the Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis at The University of Queensland and the Central Analytical Research Facility at QUT.
Prof Mackinnon is a member of the Ministerial Energy Council and was a member of the Hydrogen Task Force (2021-2023), for the Queensland Government. Dr Mackinnon has served in advisory roles for five national and international centres in the environmental, minerals and energy sectors. He has held other appointments at Arizona State University, NASA Johnson Space Centre, The University of New Mexico in the USA and at The University of Queensland.
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