Plenary Speakers


Every year the APSRC features a range of international and Australian Plenary Speakers. The 2021 Plenaries will be listed here as they are confirmed.

The following Plenaries presented at the 2020 APSRC.

Professor Paul Burn is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and Royal Society of Chemistry. He is currently a Professor of Chemistry and the Head of the Centre for Organic Photonics & Electronics, and holds an ARC Laureate Fellowship at The University of Queensland, Australia. He received his PhD from the University of Sydney before moving to Cambridge University during which he held the Dow Research Fellow at Christ’s College, Cambridge, England. In 1992 he moved to the University of Oxford and then in 2007 to The University of Queensland as an Australian Research Council Federation Fellow. His research focuses on the development of organic (opto)electronic materials and their application in technologies such as thin film photovoltaic devices and photodiodes, organic light-emitting diodes for displays and lighting, and sensors. He co-founded Cambridge Display Technology Ltd and Arborescent 2 Ltd, and developed the key technology for the Oxford University spin-out company, Opsys Ltd.

Philipp Furler holds a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from ETH Zurich since 2014. In 2018, he completed his Executive MBA at the University of Strathclyde. Philipp has more than ten years of experience in high-temperature solar chemistry and reactor engineering and has authored several scientific publications and patents. He serves as Operating Agent – Solar Chemistry Research for the International Energy Agency’s technology program SolarPACES. Prior to joining Synhelion, Philipp was a Pioneer Fellow at ETH Zurich and co-founded the ETH spin-off company Sunredox, which was acquired by Synhelion in 2018.

Dr Xiaojing (Jeana) Hao obtained her PhD in the School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering (SPREE) of UNSW in 2010, and currently the Scientia Associate Professor, and ARC Future Fellow at SPREE. A/Prof Hao has focused her research on low-cost, high-efficiency thin film solar cells and tandem solar cells for more than ten years, researching on various compound semiconductor thin film PV materials, initially using Si, and then chalcogenide, perovskite and more recently extended to other earth-abundant and RoHS-compliant energy materials, for both solar photovoltaic and solar fuel application. A/Prof Hao now leads a strong group in the above areas, achieving a number of  efficiency records on emerging thin film solar cells. A/Prof has published >130 peer-reviewed journal papers, including publications in Nature Energy, Energy & Environmental Science, Advanced Materials, Advanced Energy Materials and etc., with several awards for her research excellence. She was the recipient of Inaugural ASI/ARENA Postdoc Fellow, and then ARC DECRA, and now ARC Future Fellow, and ARC College of Expert member. She was awarded the prestigious “NSW Premier’s Prizes for Science & Engineering (Energy Innovation in NSW)” in 2018, and “Australia’s Most Innovative Engineers” in 2019

Sarah Barker leads the climate and sustainability risk governance team at MinterEllison and is a director of one of Australia’s largest superannuation funds, the Victorian state government’s $30 billion Emergency Services & State Super. She has more than two decades’ experience as a corporate lawyer, and is regarded as one of the world’s foremost experts on climate change liability risks. Sarah’s leadership in the field of climate change-related risk and liability is internationally recognised, and has been called upon by governments and institutions from the Bank of England to the OECD and United Nations PRI. She teaches as part of the Cambridge University’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership (convened by EY), and is an academic visitor at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University.  She is a member of the Steering Committee of the Australian Sustainable Finance Initiative, the only lawyer amongst a committee comprising senior executives from the Australian banking, finance and insurance sector. Sarah was the instructing solicitor on a brief to Mr Noel Hutley SC that is widely cited as the authoritative exposition on directors’ duties with regard to climate change risk in Australia (including by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, Australian Securities & Investments Commission and the Reserve Bank of Australia). She brings an overtly practical, governance-focused perspective to her advice from her own experience as a director on the board of government- and private-sector boards.  In addition to her role as a non-executive director of Emergency Services & State Super, she has recently completed two terms on the board of the Responsible Investment Association Australasia, and has been actively involved as an examiner, lecturer and course materials author for the Australian Institute of Company Directors

Andrew Blakers is E2 Professor of Engineering at the Australian National University. He has held Humboldt, ARC QEII and ARC Senior Research Fellowships. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Technological Sciences & Engineering, the Institute of Energy and the Institute of Physics. He is a Life Member of the International Solar Energy Society and the Australian Conservation Foundation and is a Public Policy Fellow at ANU. In 1991 he founded the solar PV research group and laboratories at ANU (65 staff and PhD students). Leadership roles have included Foundation Director of the Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems at ANU, Node Director of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics, Director of the ARC Centre for Solar Energy Systems, and Node Director of the Australian CRC for Renewable Energy. He has procured more than $100 million in external research funding for ANU. His research interests are in the areas of silicon solar cells and renewable energy systems. He was responsible for the design and fabrication of silicon solar cells with world record efficiencies of 18% (1983), 19% (1984), 20% (1986) and 22% (1989). He was co-inventor of Sliver solar cell technology, the subject of a $240 million commercialisation effort by Transform Solar. He was co-inventor of the PERC silicon solar cell, which has 70% of the global solar market and cumulative module sales of US$50 billion. PERC deployment is about 70 Gigawatts per year, and it currently mitigating 0.7% of global Greenhouse gas emissions through displacement of coal. Prof Blakers is a leading figure in discussions of 100% renewable energy futures and is engaged in detailed analysis of energy systems with high (50-100%) penetration by wind and photovoltaics with support from pumped hydro energy storage for which he was co-winner of  the 2018 Eureka Prize for Environmental Research.

Dr. Dietmar Tourbier works at CSIRO and is the Director of the Australian Solar Thermal Research Institute (ASTRI). Prior to joining CSIRO, he worked at General Electric (GE) for over 20 years and held various leading positions in corporate research including the leadership roles of GE’s solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) division in California, the global power electronics technology research group and, most recently, GE’s European research division. Dietmar received his Masters in aerospace engineering from the University of Stuttgart and his PhD in aerospace engineering from the University of Arizona. He also received his MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

Paul Cooper is a Senior Professor of the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC) at the University of Wollongong (UOW).  Paul has been involved in research on a wide variety of topics in sustainable buildings, renewable energy systems, energy efficiency and fluid mechanics over nearly four decades. Paul has previously served as the Head of the School of Mechanical, Materials and Mechatronic Engineering at UOW. In 2019 he was awarded the James Harrison Medal of the Australian Institute for Refrigeration Air Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH) in recognition of his lifetime contribution to the Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVAC&R) industries. As the Founding Director of the SBRC Paul was heavily involved in the design and subsequent operation of the SBRC Building, which is now recognized as one of the most sustainable buildings in Australia. In addition to being a net-positive energy building, this is the first and only building in Australia to have won full Living Building Certification from the International Living Future Institute; one of only three buildings outside the USA to have achieved this most stringent of sustainability benchmarks. Paul was also the academic coordinator of the UOW entry in the Solar Decathlon China 2013 competition, which the students and staff of Team UOW won with a world record overall score. More recently he was a senior member of the UOW ‘Desert Rose House’ Solar Decathlon team that won 2ndplace in the Solar Decathlon Middle East competition, held in extremely harsh desert conditions outside Dubai in 2018.

Last year’s APSRC 2019 included the following Plenary speakers. 

Ramteen Sioshansi is a professor in and associate department chair of the Department of Integrated Systems Engineering, an associate fellow in the Center for Automotive Research, and a faculty affiliate member of the Center for Energy Research, Training, and Innovation at The Ohio State University. His research focuses on the integration of advanced energy technologies, including renewables, energy storage, and electric transportation, into energy systems. He also works in energy policy and electricity market design, especially as they pertain to advanced energy technologies. Currently he is serving a third two-year term on the Electricity Advisory Committee of the U.S. Department of Energy and is chair of its Energy Storage Subcommittee.

Andreas Zourellis is the Technical Lead of Aalborg CSP’s solar thermal plants and has professional experience with thermal energy systems for various industrial applications. For the past 5 years he has been responsible for driving Aalborg CSP’s growth through project development of solar thermal plants in both Denmark and across the globe. Andreas Zourellis since joining Aalborg CSP has contributed to the realization of some of Denmark’s most cost-efficient solar district heating plants. He has played an instrumental role in achieving attractive feasibility and thereby successful implementation of concentrated solar heat (CSH) applications in the country. These include first-of-its-kind energy systems that utilize the parabolic trough technology in combination with other renewable sources, such as flat solar-thermal panels, biomass and organic rankine cycle. These breakthrough solar-thermal projects serve as best practices on a global scale today. With a strong thermal engineering background, Andreas Zourellis knows exactly that a solar system design perfectly tailored to project requirements enhances technical, financial and environmental benefits. His deep knowledge of boiler technologies and systems is of great value, when it comes to developing new projects in collaboration with clients and ensuring that the customer’s energy needs are met in the most cost-efficient way. Besides his extensive experience with solar technologies, Andreas Zourellis has a broad knowledge of district heating/cooling planning and energy saving projects.

Alexander Colsmann studied physics at the Ludwig-Maximilians Universität Munich, where he received his diploma in 2003. Heworked on his diploma thesis “Light emission and transistor effect in organic semiconductors” in the group of Prof. Jochen Feldmann. In 2003 he joined the Optoelectronics group of Prof. Uli Lemmer at the University of Karlsruhe. In 2008 he was awarded his PhD for his thesis “Charge carrier transport layers for efficient organic semiconductor devices”. Since then he has been leading the organic photovoltaics research group at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). In 2016, he accomplished his Habilitation. At the same time, he expanded his research capacities to a fundamental understanding of perovskite solar cells. He is member of the board of directors at KIT’s Material Research Center for Energy Systems (MZE) and spokesperson of the KIT-Energy Center, representing the energy research of 1,800 scientists in its full breadth. In 2012 the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) awarded a 4.3 Mio. Euro early career researcher grant to Alexander Colsmann that is dedicated to the research on organic tandem solar cells. Further research interests include semi-transparent solar cells for building integration and mobile applications, organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs), printed electronics, polymer electrodes, charge carrier transport layers, electrical doping of organic semiconductors and copper indium diselenide (CIS). In 2015 he was awarded the Gips- Schüle-Prize on “Eco-friendly solar cell fabrication from organic nanoparticle dispersions”. In 2019 he received the Erwin-Schrödinger-Prize for his work on “The perfect solar cell: How ferroelectricity improves power harvesting in perovskite solar cells”.

Martin Green is Scientia Professor at the University of New South Wales, Sydney and Director of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics, involving several other Australian Universities and research groups. His group’s contributions to photovoltaics are well known and include holding the record for silicon solar cell efficiency for 30 of the last 35 years, described as one of the “Top Ten” Milestones in the history of solar photovoltaics. Major international awards include the 1999 Australia Prize, the 2002 Right Livelihood Award, also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize, the 2007 SolarWorld Einstein Award, the 2016 Ian Wark Medal from the Australian Academy of Science and, most recently, the 2018 Global Energy Prize to be presented in St Petersburg this October.

Keith Lovegrove is a leading expert in concentrating solar power (CSP). He has more than 30 years’ experience in solar energy combined with 15 years of teaching experience in undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Energy Systems and Systems Engineering. He has worked extensively on the storage of solar energy with hydrogen and ammonia. He was previously the leader of the Solar Thermal Group at the Australian National University. In that role he was the lead inventor and design and construction team leader of the 500m2 (world’s largest) Generation II Big Dish solar concentrator. 
Keith has a Bachelor of Science (First Class Honours) and PhD from the Australian National University. He has represented Australia as International Energy Agency (IEA) Solar PACES (Power and Chemical Energy Systems) Solar Chemistry task representative over many years and currently is the alternative executive committee representative. In 2012, he was a Member of the Australian Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council, Expert Working Group on Climate Energy and Water Links. He is a member of the University of Adelaide’s Centre for Energy Technology advisory board, board member of the Australian Solar Thermal Association and also serves on the Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s advisory panel.

Daniel Mugnier has professional experience in engineering solar thermal systems for large DHW applications and above all solar heating and cooling systems. Managing the innovation department of TECSOL – one of the French leading solar engineering companies – Daniel Mugnier is involved as well in numerous R&D projects on solar thermal at the national, European and international level. He is also author of several publications and presentations at international conferences on solar energy. He is currently Chairman of the IEA Solar Heating and Cooling Programme as well as French delegate to IEA PVPS Task 1 and French participant to IEA PVPS Task 17 (on solar mobility).

Melissa Pang is Director of Project Solutions at the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). Throughout her career, Melissa has worked as a consulting engineer in industries such as defence, building services and energy efficiency. The past six years have been spent at ARENA in multiple roles: developing and contributing to ARENA’s solar R&D to commercialisation strategy, managing ARENA’s marine and geothermal energy portfolios, navigating the multi-dimensional and multi-stakeholder issues surrounding the grid integration of renewable energy technologies and, finally, managing Project Solutions team to deliver ARENA’s complex contracts.

Vasilis Fthenakis develops methodologies, predictive models, and control technologies for resolving problems at the interface of energy and the environment. Recent investigations include variable renewable energy systems integration and life cycle sustainability analysis. His pioneering work on environmental impact and resource availability of photovoltaic (PV) technologies has helped resolve concerns for rapid growth commercialization. Fthenakis joined Columbia in 2006, in a joint appointment with Brookhaven National Laboratory, and founded the Center for Life Cycle Analysis (CLCA), with the objective to guide technology and energy policy decisions with holistic and well balanced descriptions of the sustainability profiles of energy systems. His research on the life-cycles of renewable, nuclear, and coal technologies has been a crucial contribution to today’s key debates about energy and climate change and has put several energy technologies on a comparable basis with solar.  He created an International Energy Agency Task on PV Sustainability that brought together LCA analysts from fourteen countries and produced a number of consensus documents guiding credible LCA studies worldwide. Recently he co-founded the Global Clean Water Desalination Alliance (GCWDA) and was elected in its Board of Directors. The GCWDA was launched during the COP21 Paris and was also represented in COP22 Marrakesh. The CLCA team is currently leading GCWDA efforts to integrate PV with desalination making it both clean and affordable. Fthenakis has a BS in Chemistry from the National University of Athens, a MS in Chemical Engineering from Columbia University, and a PhD in Fluid Dynamics and Atmospheric Science from New York University. He is the author of three books and 400 scientific articles and reports. He serves on the Editorial Boards of Progress in PhotovoltaicsEnergy Technology, and the Journal of Loss Prevention.  Early in his career he served as a safety and environmental consultant for major oil and chemical companies and as an expert on investigating major chemical accidents in the U.S.

Dr Lachlan Blackhall is Entrepreneurial Fellow and Head, Battery Storage and Grid Integration Program at The Australian National University. Previously, Dr Blackhall led the development of capabilities to monitor, optimise and control residential solar generation and battery storage, as well as the development of virtual power plant technology to aggregate energy storage to deliver services to energy networks, markets and utilities. Dr Blackhall holds a BE, BSc and a PhD in engineering and applied mathematics, is a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and a Fellow of both the Institution of Engineers Australia (IEAust) and the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE).

Professor Kylie Catchpole is at the Research School of Engineering at the Australian National University. Her research interests are in nanotechnology and new materials for solar cell applications.  She has a physics degree from the ANU, winning a University Medal, and a PhD from the ANU. She was a Post-doctoral Fellow at the University of New South Wales and the FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics, Amsterdam. She has published over 100 papers, which have been cited over 6000 times to date.  Her work on plasmonic solar cells has been featured in the news sections of Science magazine and The Economist and in 2010 her work on nanophotonic light trapping was listed as one of MIT Technology Review’s ‘10 most important emerging technologies’.  In 2011 she was an episode winner on ABC TV’s ‘New Inventors’.  In 2015 she was awarded the John Booker medal in engineering science from the Australian Academy of Science.