A disorderly transition: what technologies do we need?

A panel of chemists and social scientists unpack current alternative technologies on the path to decarbonisation and the complex social implications that surround them.

The current energy crisis has revealed failures at both national and international levels to plan for the transition to renewable energy in light of the climate emergency. While wind and solar energy are experiencing the fastest uptake globally, there are a range of other technologies available to foster a sustainable transition or mitigate climate change.

This panel examines the possibilities and challenges for wind and solar, green hydrogen, net zero emission technologies, and global solar geoengineering in the ‘disorderly transition’ from fossil fuels. Chemistry Professors, Deanna D’Alessandro and Francois Aguey-Zinsou, will explain the potential for a renewable energy ecosystem, while Governance Professors, Susan Park and David Schlosberg, will warn of the multi-scalar social risks of such technologies and the importance of both authentic community engagement and strong government leadership as we move forward.

This event was presented online on 28 July, 2022.

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Francois Aguey-Zinsou is heading the MERLin research lab within the School of Chemistry at the University of Sydney. Francois is an expert in hydrogen technologies. His group has been working for many years on the properties of light metals and their hydrides for hydrogen storage application and commercialization. He is also developing technologies for enabling novel fuel cell and electrolysers architectures and advanced catalysts for hydrogen combustion. Francois Aguey-Zinsou is Vice-President of the Australian French Association for Research and Innovation, Co-director of the Australian-French Research Network FACES and the ARC training Centre for Hydrogen GlobH2E. He has also co-founder of H2potential and is Chief Investigator of HySupply.

Deanna D’Alessandro is an ARC Future Fellow and Professor within the School of Chemistry at the University of Sydney specialising in materials chemistry. She has over 16 years professional experience in carbon capture, working primarily in Australia and the United States. Over the past decade, Deanna has built her research team at the University of Sydney which is recognised for its expertise in both fundamental and applied aspects of Metal-Organic Framework materials. She is passionate about interdisciplinary efforts to address climate change through Negative Emissions technologies such as Direct Air Capture, and is helping to drive the Net Zero Initiative’s Carbon Removals pillar.

Katherine Owens (Chair) is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney Law School. Her research focuses on how law and governance can enable innovation and ecologically sustainable transformation, particularly in the context of climate and water governance. Before joining the University of Sydney in 2015, Katherine practised for a number of years in State Government and leading commercial firms in Australia and New Zealand, specialising in environmental and planning law.

Susan Park is a Professor of Global Governance at the University of Sydney. Susan researches how intergovernmental organisations become greener and more accountable and how accountability can be used to improve global environmental governance. Susan is the Research Lead on the Unsettling Resources project.

David Schlosberg is Director of the Sydney Environment Institute and Professor of Environmental Politics at the University of Sydney. His work focuses on environmental and climate justice, environmental movements, sustainability in everyday life, and climate adaptation/resilience planning and policy.

This event comes from research out of the SEI research project Critical Minerals led by Professor Susan Park and the Faculty of Engineering funded project Direct Air Capture for Carbon Dioxide Removal led by Professor Deanna D’Alessandro and an interdisciplinary team including SEI. 

Header image of gas mining rig in the south Australian desert powered by solar energy by John Carnemolla via Shutterstock, ID: 2028765278