Australia’s position as a top energy exporter is at risk of stagnating behind international competitors without the power of a digital-savvy workforce, says a leading Queensland University of Technology (QUT) researcher.
Professor Robert Perrons is heading a new Future Energy Exports (FEnEX) Cooperative Research Centre project to identify and overcome technological skills gaps over the next three years.
Professor Perrons, backed by QUT’s Professor Kevin Desouza, the Asset Institute, and a collaborating team at Edith Cowan University are developing a digital competencies framework for the Australian energy industry.
Professor Perrons said the industry’s employees has very uneven levels of proficiency.
“It’s an industry where we can do better,” he said. “Digital technology wasn’t seen as mission-critical in the past, but that has now changed.”
“To have that world-class efficiency, you need a workforce that is very tech-savvy and very comfortable with digital technologies.”
“It therefore follows that we’ll have to build that domestic capability if we’re going to achieve those kinds of efficiency.”
Professor Perrons said one example is the implementation of artificial intelligence to anticipate technical system failures.
“By engineers being aware of those sorts of failures before they actually happen, they can improve the overall efficiency of the system and reduce downtime,” he said.
An analysis of the energy workforce will form the basis of the digital competency framework to build technologically proficient workers.
“We’re going to know exactly what we don’t know, and then provide a credible and actionable roadmap that explains how we’re going to make sure Australia’s workforce is the envy of the entire energy sector globally.”
“We can have the smartest and the best,” he said.
Professor Perrons suggested Australia is set to become the number one global exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
“Australia’s exportable energy fuels, specifically LNG and hydrogen, are lower carbon alternatives than the oil and coal that frequently supply much of today’s global energy system,” he said.
“By helping to export these greener fuels, this project helps to lay the foundation for a lower carbon future.”
The project is also supported by Origin, who have made themselves available as a “living laboratory” so that the research team can better understand the context-specific nuances of the energy industry.
The CRC project starts in April and is worth $640,769.