Country President and Managing Director, Alstom Australia and New Zealand
BEng (UNSW), MBA (UTS), FAICD, FIEAust
Chris Raine addressed graduates from the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology at the Parkside Auditorium, Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre on Wednesday 5 October 2011, 10.30am.
Chris Raine is the President and Managing Director of Alstom's operations in Australia and New Zealand. Alstom is a global leader in the world of power generation, transmission and rail infrastructure and sets the benchmark for innovative and environmentally friendly technologies.
Chris graduated in Mechanical Engineering from the University of New South Wales and holds an MBA from UTS. Chris commenced his professional career in power plant projects with State owned utilities Pacific Power and subsequently Snowy Hydro. Chris then moved into the private sector, joining Transfield where he was responsible for senior business development and sales roles covering the South–East Asian and Australian markets.
In the late 1990s Chris relocated to Malaysia as Managing Director of ABB Power Generation. Alstom acquired ABB's power generation business in 2000, making Chris Managing Director of the new company — Alstom Power Asia Pacific. Chris returned to Sydney in 2003 as the Managing Director of Alstom Limited and shortly after assumed the role of President for Alstom operations.
Chris is a fellow of the Institute of Engineers Australia, the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a member of the French–Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He is also the National Vice-President of the Australian Industry Group, and serves actively as a member of the Industry Advisory Network of the UTS' Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology.
On a number of occasions, Chris has been included in Engineer's Australia's list of the country's 100 most influential engineers.
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Chancellor Professor Vicki Sara, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Patrick Woods, Dean Professor Hung Nguyen, Members of Council, staff, distinguished guests, graduates, and your families and friends.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak today, it is truly an honour — especially as I am also a graduate of this terrific University.
I offer my heartiest congratulations to all the graduates recognised in this ceremony, and I would like to acknowledge the support you have received from family and friends.
It was only 18 months ago that I sat in the audience at my own daughter's graduation ceremony — here at UTS.
As a dad, I supported her with my guidance, free accommodation and competitive financing. When I told her I would be giving this speech today, she was also very supportive.
She said: 'Whatever you do, dad, don't make it boring!'
With that advice, the goal of my speech is to give you something to think about. I warn you — not everyone is going to agree with my views, but that is exactly the point of what I have to say.
Regardless of your chosen career paths, it's likely that you will find yourselves at the convergence of engineering with non-engineering opinions in some aspects of your work.
When these exciting opportunities come along, I encourage you to speak up and express your opinions, even if your opinions may be seen to be controversial.
That is what I am going to do today, by discussing three examples of the convergence between engineering, business and politics: climate change, nuclear power, and very high speed rail.
Engineering is at the heart of all these debates.
To be clear, the company I work for is involved in all three activities worldwide, and so these examples are particularly relevant for me. As an engineer I am proud to be able to participate in the public debate and on the record.
When it comes to Climate Change, the power industry accounts for 40% of global CO2 emissions and so this is a good place to start.
Some people think we can wait for the rest of the world to move on climate change. But make no mistake. Australia will be hit first and hit the hardest. Rising sea levels will flood the homes of our pacific neighbours and destroy our coastline. We will face increasingly severe droughts and floods — as we have already seen in the past 18 months.
Climate change is urgent and engineers play a vital role in our national and global response. But we can't do it alone — business, politics and engineering must work together.
As a businessman, I believe that carbon pricing is the best way to reduce emissions. The laws of supply and demand will drive the deployment of the most cost-effective CO2 free technologies.
Many people say that these CO2 free technologies are overly expensive and will raise power prices. Yet I believe that governments should be investing much more today in engineering CO2 free technologies, so we can bring the cost down in the future.
Government assistance boosts production volumes, leading to lower costs, and lower prices. These economies of scale are exactly what has happened with flatscreen TVs, laptop computers, and iPads.
A good example of a CO2 free technology where the price is already coming down is Carbon Capture and Storage. Some people think that this technology which captures and stores CO2 underground is still a pipe dream. Well my company already has seven operating demonstration plants around the world, capturing CO2 as we speak.
My company also develops other CO2 free technologies such as wind, hydro, tidal, wave, solar and geothermal. Our research shows that over the next five years more than half of the new power plants built around the world will be CO2 free. All these technologies must be deployed immediately to have a positive impact. This will include the important role played by nuclear power.
Nuclear is the most controversial topic I will speak of today, but it is a strong example of where business, politics and engineering converge.
From an engineering and business perspective, nuclear power offers long term energy security, it is CO2 free, and it is a safe form of energy. Yet it remains a politically difficult decision.
It's easy to understand why, given recent events in Japan. It's important to remember that the Fukushima nuclear accident is part of a much bigger natural disaster. History will remember the 20,000 people who lost their lives or who are still missing following the tsunami. As far as I am aware, there have so far been no fatalities attributed to the nuclear event. Nevertheless, the Fukushima accident has left the nuclear industry with some very serious lessons to learn.
In the meantime, Australia has one of the highest per capita CO2 emissions profiles in the world. It is a fact that if Australia had invested in nuclear power years ago, there would be no need for a debate on the carbon price today. So apart from lower CO2 emissions, why else should we be discussing nuclear?
Although the upfront cost of Nuclear power is significant, in the long run, nuclear is a reliable and affordable source of energy. Australia has nearly 40% of the world's uranium reserves, and we are one of the world's largest exporters. As a businessman, I don't understand the logic behind our decision to export uranium, whilst outlawing its use at home.
I'm not advocating that we should build a nuclear plant in Australia tomorrow, but I am saying that engineers, business and politics all need to be debating nuclear on its own merits … Nuclear should not simply be outlawed, as it is today. Nuclear offers Australia many opportunities and challenges, but another interesting example of where engineering is at the heart of business and political debate is Very High Speed Rail.
Very High Speed Rail
Many people think High Speed Rail is a great idea but some say it's too expensive. The fact is, Very High Speed Rail is essential infrastructure for a modern connected economy. It costs the same amount as a four-lane highway, and we do not have the same debate about roads. If we compare rail to road networks, we can see that they use less land, emit less CO2, and can help reduce congestion.
For commuters, rail is an affordable alternative to air travel — especially given rising oil prices — and in Australia, a Very High Speed Rail network could help delay investment in a second Sydney airport. With our population growing to 36 million by 2050, we have to be able to provide homes and jobs. Implementing very high speed rail will achieve this by developing our regional towns and cities.
Finally, we must understand that High Speed Rail is the safest mode of transport. Since 1984, around 40,000 people have died on Australian roads. In the same timeframe, there have been ZERO deaths associated with the pioneering high speed networks in France and Japan.
It is clear to me that in order to have a modern, connected economy, Australia must prepare for a High Speed Rail network today. To do that, the worlds of business, engineering and politics must converge.
To conclude, today I have given you three examples of the challenges I face in my job, and where engineering is at the heart of the debate.
Even though I know not everyone here will have agreed with me, I hope that I have fulfilled my daughter's advice and given you something to think about.
As your own careers develop, you will become more and more challenged by how both business and politics shape the questions that engineers must answer. Notwithstanding how these challenges and opportunities come along I encourage you to speak out.
But for today — you should celebrate.
You have achieved real academic success at UTS, and you will all go on to have some incredible careers.
So for your achievements to date, I would like to say Congratulations. And for your achievements tomorrow, I would like to say 'good luck'!
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