Essay competition targets energy fairness and savings

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Young Australian writers are invited to share their insights about fairness and efficiency in the energy sector for a share of $5000 in prizes.

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Young Australian writers are invited to share their insights about fairness and efficiency in the energy sector for a share of $5000 in prizes.

The Gill Owen Essay Prize, now in its second year, aims to inspire the rising generation to reflect on the importance of increasing energy efficiency and improving social justice.

The competition commemorates Dr Gill Owen, who was a pioneering researcher and advocate for energy fairness and efficiency in Australia and the United Kingdom. Through organisations such as National Energy Action, Sustainability First, Monash University and Energy Consumers Australia, Gill Owen highlighted the importance of energy affordability and energy savings for disadvantaged households.

Gill Owen was among the first to champion the interests of consumers and the disadvantaged on the boards of the UK’s and Australia’s competition and energy regulators.  She worked passionately for these causes until her untimely death from an aggressive brain tumour in August 2016.

Gill Owen advised government and regulators on a wide range of issues including energy efficiency, fuel poverty, economic regulation and sustainability in energy and water, smart meters, distributed energy and demand response. She is recognised for having a major impact on energy policy in both Australia and the UK.

Professor John Thwaites, former Victorian Minister for Environment and Climate Change, recognised her key role in the introduction of the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target in 2007.

“I always found Gill to be a really wise counsellor on energy efficiency and the impact of the electricity prices on households,” said Professor Thwaites. “Her great achievement was over many years to highlight the importance of energy affordability and energy efficiency for low income households and to use robust research to back energy efficiency programs that targeted low income households.”

More than just honouring the memory of Gill Owen, the essay competition provides an opportunity to build on her legacy. Social equity and energy efficiency are important issues in their own right, but they are also essential elements in a successful transition to a sustainable, affordable, clean energy system.

The Gill Owen Essay Prize is proudly supported by AGL Energy, the UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF), Uniting Communities, the Association for Energy and Environmental Equity and media partner Renew Economy.

ISF Director Professor Stuart White said: “Gill made an important contribution to the empowerment of the disadvantaged, and highlighted the often-overlooked importance of improving energy efficiency.”

Dev Tayal won the inaugural Gill Owen Essay Prize last year for his essay “The energy sector must use new tech to ensure the vulnerable aren’t left behind”.

“I’m thankful for the Gill Owen Essay Prize – it was a rare opportunity to express my own perspective on key aspects of Australia’s energy transition,” Mr Tayal said. “Energy optimisation – the topic of my essay – has continued to be a highly politicised, yet critical, component of energy security and social equity in Australia.”

“This competition is a wonderful way to mark Gill’s work. I look forward to stimulating new thought from those who can build on Gill’s work afresh,” said David Green, Gill’s husband and former Chief Executive of the Clean Energy Council.

The Gill Owen Essay Prize is open to writers up to 35 years of age.The winning essay will be published in Renew Economyand receive $3,000, while two runner-up essays will each be awarded $1,000. Entries close on Friday 9 November 2018.

Examples of possible themes for entries include:

  • Setting energy efficiency standards for rental homes is critical to reducing energy bills for low income Australians; NSW and Victorian energy efficiency schemes should include specific provisions to support disadvantaged households, just as South Australian and ACT schemes do.

Full entry conditions and judging criteria are available on the UTS website. RenewEconomy is a proud partner in this initiative, will help in the judging and also publish the winning contributions.

Dr Gill Owen’s legacy is being further acknowledged through the Gill Owen Scholarship, which is also being launched today by Energy Consumers Australia

Authors: Erika Wagner and Chris Dunstan, UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures

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