About This Project

National Energy Essay Competition

The National Energy Essay Competition (NEEC) arose from the increasing interest by the community in the inter-related issues of energy generation and usage, sustainability, carbon dioxide emissions and associated costs, all at a time of increasing awareness of the finite nature of global fossil fuel resources and forecast needs for very deep cuts in emissions.

The Warren Centre (TWC), which maintains close contact with industry, academe and the community wanted to encourage informed debate. TWC felt that young Australian minds should be encouraged to address what will be their energy future, given the time perspective of technological change in the creation and usage of patterns of energy since the industrial revolution.

TWC sensed a need to introduce a rigorous and disciplined level of information into the public arena, in layman’s terms. The objective was to catalyse debate on the next phase of primary energy generation needed to meet the needs of Australia’s established and developing energy networks. These needs will be influenced by:

  • politics,
  • societal and technological changes,
  • population location,
  • living patterns,
  • transport tasks and technologies,
  • existing and emerging industrial processes and
  • other yet to emerge impacts.

The concept of a national essay competition, restricted to the younger age group who will be the future leaders, innovators and providers to the energy sector, was thought to be a way of stimulating young minds, while at the same time attracting the interest of the established market, the media and the public at large.

To this end a two-part essay topic was created. The first and major part draws on the contestant’s knowledge and conceptual abilities with reference to tried and proven technologies and the Australian energy scene from today through to 2050. The second part aimed to explore the contestant’s knowledge and understanding of promising research trends in energy creation and usage. They were encouraged to mix this with innovative thinking and ideas telling the reader how they see energy creation and usage scenarios evolving over the period 2050 to 2100.

The emphasis of the competition was on quality of the ideas and contestants’ ability to express them concisely and lucidly in everyday terms, referencing all material statements. Contestants were permitted to lodge essays as sole author or in a team with a maximum of three, thus encouraged inter-disciplinary input and group working.

Competition objectives

The concept behind NEEC was to involve the next generation of potential leaders and contributors to Australia’s development. The competition provided an opportunity for them to express thoughts and ideas which stimulates free, constructive and accurate debate, with the media’s help, generating ideas and potential courses of action.

In particular it was expected contestants to:

  • take the opportunity for up and coming professionals to demonstrate their knowledge and abilities of expression
  • involve their contemporaries and the public in informed debate
  • address Australia’s energy future in the context of its major population regions and associated existing and future industrial activity
  • consider objectively, with supporting references, the established primary sources of energy commercially available, saying how they see these best apportioned and integrated within existing electrical distribution systems
  • express their views on how they envisage developing technologies impacting energy usage, lifestyle and future electrical distribution systems, — in the timeframe of their own lifetimes — as well as to
  • think futuristically, with credible views, about where promising areas of research may change the Australia in which their children will live.

TWC also encouraged team working, sharing of interdisciplinary skills and gave future leaders, innovators and lateral thinkers the opportunity to make their mark.

Prizes and Awards

Two major prizes of $20,000 each were awarded to the best essays selected by the judging panel

  • The Babcock & Brown Power/Wind Partners Prize
  • The Sumitomo Australia Prize

One prize of $5,000 was awarded for the best essay selected by the Judging Panel which is written by an essayist (or essayists) under 22 years of age at the closing date of the competition.

Five prizes of $1,000 each were be awarded to essays selected by the judging panel as worthy of an ‘Honourable Mention’.


The Judging Panel consisted of 7 members, including the Chairman. Membership of the Judging Panel comprised:

Mr. David S Clarke AO (Chairman), Chairman, Macquarie Bank Limited

Professor Jill Trewhella (NSW), ARC Federation Fellow and Professor, Molecular and Microbial Biosciences at the University of Sydney

Mr. Murray Meaton (WA), President, Australian Institute of Energy

Dr. Peter Greenwood  (Tas), Past President, Institution of Engineers, Australia

The Hon. Barry Jones AO (Vic), Vice Chancellor, University of Queensland

The Hon. Barry Jones AO (Vic), Vice Chancellor’s Fellow, University of Melbourne

Mr. Nick Palousis (SA),  Former Young South Australian of the Year


All essays were reviewed and judged anonymously, the entrants were identified only by their Unique Registration Number. The Chairman and each Judge had an equal vote and a simple majority decided competition awards.


The names of the winning entrants of the NEEC were published on TWC’s website and notified of this fact by email, by telephone or Australia Post.

The winning entrants were presented with their prizes at a dinner function held in association with the energy industry.

The major prize winners were also invited to participate in a televised debate on Channel 7 from which a ‘people’s choice’ winner was selected by the interested public.


The Question

Part A (7,000 words): Provide your prediction for the changes in primary energy demand, sourcing and facilities for electrical generation in Australia’s geographical regions supplied by the Eastern and Western electricity grids for the period 2010 through 2050

Part B (3,000 words): Provide your view of the likely longer term energy sources, amenable to Australia for its electrical energy needs to 2100, allowing for future scientific evolution of energy production for industry and society in the context of energy changes witnessed since the industrial revolution.


The Response

Part A must include reference to the following:

  • an understanding of the estimated demand and distribution of the total energy demand and its electrical energy component now and in the future to 2050, including consideration of demand management, increasing gas reticulation and pipeline interconnection, etc – order of magnitude only, high confidence not expected, and
  •  views on the changing needs of society and industry resulting form proven technology, commercialisation of which, will impact demand during this period, and
  • the economics, free of any subsidy or regulation, of the electrical generation concepts proposed, allowing for any system integration support required for fluctuating energy sources, and
  • energy from coal, gas, nuclear fission, hydro generation, geothermal, renewables, and other commercially proven resources, and
  •  the logistics of supplying the raw materials for the energy production units at the power station, the treatment of gaseous and solid waste materials and the closure conditions expected to apply to generation sites, following the cessation of electricity production, and
  • the environmental and societal aspects of the proposal, and the extent to which the essay’s initial economic conclusions might vary with development and any implementation of external policies related to renewables, carbon emissions trading, carbon sequestration, and sustainability

Part B may range as widely as the author(s) would wish, including the following

  • postulation of new ideas for large scale electricity production, demand management, cross linking of other fuels such as gas to provide for society’s energy security.   New ideas must be presented with some numerical coherency, and
  • the extent to which demand may be altered as a consequence of new technologies (for example in the domains of transport, metallurgical process, intelligent control systems, etc) and new national and international regulatory approaches (for example emissions trading systems, the setting of internationally accepted targets and other such prospective instruments)


The Content

The content of each essay must comply with the Terms & Conditions, have rigour, and meet reasonable technical and economic standards. There is no one answer, there is no right answer. Essays will be assessed on lucidity, quality, style, and clarity of presentation along with ‘layman’s’ readability and understanding, as well as their content.

The essay shall be original work, using publicly available source material, which must be accurately referenced. References to peer reviewed journals will be judged as adding strength to the argument – references to the popular press may be judged as diminishing the strength of the arguments.

Part A shall comprise not more that 7,000 typed words and Part B shall comprise not more than 3,000 typed words, on A4 paper plus exhibits, without any appendices.



A synopsis of the essay shall be provided, comprising not more than 500 typed words. This synopsis shall provide a true reflection of the main arguments presented in the essay and may form the basis for initial review of the essays.


Essay assessment

To be considered for assessment, an essay must demonstrate that social, environmental and economic issues have been properly considered and that physical assets have been considered from a whole of life perspective.

Accuracy, clarity and attractiveness of the synopsis (Total marks 25)

  • The ability to engage attention is an important feature in the successful communication of ideas. The synopsis will be considered as an important pre-requisite to the attraction of the audience to the detailed argument presented in the essay.

Overall approach and quality of presentation (Total marks 25)

  • A high level of importance is attached to the clarity and lucidity of the essay. Contestants are encouraged to focus on conveying the arguments presented to an intelligent and thoughtful lay audience, likely to be knowledgeable although not necessarily expert in the chosen field.

Part A – Present systems and their development to 2050 (Total marks 75)

  • Understanding of Australia’s current integrated energy requirements, load characteristics and distribution. (15 marks)
  • Forecast of growth distribution and characteristics for the period 2010 through 2050 (marks for contestants knowledge of growth, in particular social, economic and geographic influences, general order of forecasting expected only) (15 marks)
  • Knowledge and ranking of the key elements of cost of installed primary energy systems and those systems available for immediate development, which contestant considers candidates for the future generation mix; costs include disposal of the non-electrical products of power station operation (15 marks)
  • Assessment rationale (15 marks)
  • Environmental and sustainability considerations (15 marks)

Part B – Future systems and developments to 2100 (Total marks 25)

  • Energy generation research and development trends (10 marks)
  • Impact of technology and associated energy usage on environment, society and growth patterns (10 marks)
  • Promising technologies that may enter the primary energy power generation regimen from 2050 to 2100 (intended to assess contestants imagination based on scientific fact for both future energy production and utilisation eg production of hydrogen for industrial and mobile usage, nuclear power generation, electric vehicles, desalination, etc) (5 marks)
The Winners

The $45,000 National Energy Essay Competition was decided.

Following a comprehensive review process, a short-list of finalists was selected from which the emminent Judging Panel, under the chairmanship of David S Clarke AO, has determined the prize winners.

On 20th November, 2008 the winners were announced and prizes awarded at an awards function held at the Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney.

The prize winners were:

  • Mr Reuben Finighan from Victoria (Sumitomo Australia prize)
  • Dr David Butler, Mr Jerome Rowcroft and Mr Simon Andrews from Tasmania (Babcock & Brown Power prize)
  • Mr Justin Harding from Victoria (Babcock & Brown Wind Partners prize)
  • Mr Aleks Atrens from Queensland (Under 22 years of age prize)
  • Mr Christopher Chapman from ACT (Honourable Mention)
  • Mr Ryan Dudley and Mr Anthony Hadley from NSW (Honourable Mention)


The National Energy Essay Competition was open to Australian citizens and permanent residents under 31 years of age at 30 June 2008, attracted entrants from all over Australia. The NEEC was about Australia’s energy future. Specifically, it was about the next phase of primary power generation and the future beyond that. The NEEC was also about the younger generation and their contribution to the future of Australia’s energy development. The aim is to provide a more rigorous and disciplined level of information in the public arena as a catalyst for reasoned debate on Australia’s energy future. The activity has been initiated by, and managed by The Warren Centre for Advanced Engineering with the endorsement of the Australian Institute of Energy.


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