What is your job?
Director of External Affairs at The Clean Energy Council. It is, quite possibly, the best job in the world. I lead national policy and advocacy to accelerate the renewable energy transition in Australia, and oversee a team of top renewable energy policy experts across the wind, solar, hydro, battery storage, green hydrogen, electrification, electricity markets, and grid sectors. Before that I served as Deputy Lord Mayor of Melbourne, when it was named the world’s most liveable city seven years in a row. There I instigated and led the Melbourne Renewable Energy Project — a group renewable energy purchasing project that resulted in the construction of an 80MW wind farm, delivering the City of Melbourne 100% of its energy from renewable sources.
How are you helping cool the planet through your work?
Our over 1,000 members, representing rooftop solar, large-scale renewables, and a range of green alternative sectors work closely with all levels of government, regulators, and industry towards growing Australia’s use of renewable energy to 100% by 2030. Already, in the past five years, the portion of Australia’s electricity that comes from renewables has almost doubled, to 32.5% in 2021 from 16.9% 2017. This fast shift isn’t only significant for Australia; it is a great example of a fossil-fuel dependent economy and energy system successfully decarbonizing. Moreover, if we can replace global exports of coal with those of green hydrogen, Australia can become a renewable energy superpower and help the world decarbonize. That’s a big turnaround for a nation known for its coal exports.
What most surprised you about your job?
That we have all the solutions at our fingertips, but that meeting our 2050 goals depends more on political will, short- and long-term planning, genuine collaboration, and getting things done. That’s why good policy matters so much. The right policy setting, target, regulation, market certainty, or incentive can make the difference between saving the planet or debating the same arguments as the world heads towards 2°C warming. Great climate policy is about mitigating the risks while spotting huge opportunities. Renewable energy is well and truly on the huge opportunity list
What can we do to get more young people into public service?
We need to promote the many and exciting pathways available to aspiring public servants, as nations around the world transition to the new green economy. There are so many exciting careers in renewable energy alone, from policy experts to financial and investor roles, to wind blade engineers and rooftop solar electricians. All these bring great opportunity to both do good for the planet and earn a good living. This isn’t a choice between the economy and the environment: true sustainability meets the needs of people, planet, and the economy. This transition is deep and long-term. Increasingly, aspiring public servants will find their sector to be attractive; one is, literally, saving the planet.