18 December 2008

A UQ PhD student exploring the possibilities of geothermal power has won a national award for his sustainable energy outlook for Australia.

Aleks Atrens, a PhD student with UQ’s School of Engineering, was awarded the under 22 age group prize in a new national essay competition aimed at encouraging young Australians to consider our energy future.

The inaugural National Energy Essay Competition (NEEC) saw more than 200 entrants submit a 10, 000 word essay addressing the energy challenges facing Australia in the next 40 years and beyond.

In his winning essay, Mr Atrens suggests that a range of power generation systems will need to be constructed to meet growing energy demands and limit severe environmental harm.

“Looking at data over the past 50 years, we can see that increases in population, economic growth and energy usage suggest that by 2050 there will be a doubling in power usage,” Mr Atrens said.

“In the near future, I think we will see a mix of renewable technologies such as solar, wind and geothermal coupled with fossil fuel generation with carbon capture systems.

“Moving towards 2100, the energy sector will have changed significantly with hot fusion power and biological processes replacing traditional fossil fuel use.”

Launched by The Warren Centre for Advanced Engineering, the NEEC provides a unique opportunity for a new generation of leaders to confront one of the major issues of our time.

Mr Atrens said the competition had inspired and encouraged him to take a broader outlook on energy sustainability.

“Looking at renewable energy sources is something I’ve been really interested in ever since I left high school,” he said.

“There was a lot of stuff that I didn’t know about before starting the essay but the more I read about it, the more I realise that finding where our energy will come from in the future is a serious issue for my generation.”

One of the challenges for the essayists was to present the current complex energy debate and their innovative predictions in layman’s terms.

Professor Hal Gurgenci, interim Director of Queensland Geothermal Energy Centre of Excellence, said the competition was crucial in helping to secure the nation’s energy future.

“Aleks’ success and participation in the NEEC has confirmed that his studies in renewable energy sources are important and in line with national priorities,” Professor Gurgenci said.

“This competition ensures that students and young professionals are aware that being able to articulate their complex ideas clearly is just as important as implementing them.”

The competition was judged by a panel of industry and education experts including David Clarke, Chairman of Macquarie Bank, Murray Meaton, President of the Australian Institute of Energy and Professor Paul Greenfield, UQ Vice-Chancellor.

The winners of the NEEC were announced at a ceremony held at Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney on November 20.

Media: Alice Walker at UQ Engineering (07 3346 7696 or a.walker1@uq.edu.au)