Engineers Australia Symposium

Having just attended a two day symposium hosted by Engineers Australia here in Melbourne, I am encouraged by the enthusiasm from engineers in regard to sustainability. The event included speakers from various Australian engineering companies and associations, all offering their take on industry practices and visions of the future. Most of the talks were based on studies and experiments and presented in a format for an engineering audience without the sales pitch. It was fantastic to visit the Pixel building in Melbourne and not only hear about successful implementation of green technologies, but also technologies that worked on paper but struggled in practice.

International guest speaker Mike Schlaich from Germany's Technische Universitat Berlin was a highlight for me. He talked about Germany's push toward a solar future with projects like Desertec and the Euro-Supergrid which are fascinating projects that offer real promise for the very near future. All of the technologies to be used exist today with many small scale plants producing power in Spain and the US right now. But what about when the sun doesn’t shine? It seems to be a common misconception that solar can’t provide base load power, however the use of molten salt, water bodies and other heat storage systems can be charged through the day and continue to provide power through the night.

Australia is ideal for these technologies with large uninhabited areas, plenty of sunlight and large potential for power exportation to South East Asia. It is difficult to understand why Australia is not developing these technologies as they offer huge environmental, social and economic advantages in the long term. I guess we are a short term society?

Another surprising highlight was Andreas Kammel from Toyota’s corporate affairs strategy and environment division. His talk was both entertaining and inspirational with many links between the car industry and our engineering profession…. and indeed other professions.

I certainly got a lot from the event and I am sure others did also. I congratulate Engineers Australia for a fantastic and very informative event and hope to attend all those hosted in the future.