Geoff McDougall

FIEAust CPEng NER APEC Engineer IntPE(Aus)

Specialist Electrical Engineer

Entura

Geoff McDougall is a Specialist Electrical Engineer with Entura, the consulting business of Hydro Tasmania. Geoff holds degrees in Electrical Power Engineering and Environmental Design, a Diploma of Project Management and a Certificate in Training and Assessment.

Geoff’s current work is at the front end of renewable projects for small Pacific nations. Geoff is also a casual lecturer and provides training at the Entura Clean Energy and Water Institute. He is an accredited ISO9001 lead internal auditor and trained incident investigator undertaking internal quality audits and external incident investigations.

How long have you been a member of Engineers Australia?
I joined Engineers Australia as a student member in 1970 and was elected as a Fellow in 1990. I have served on Division Committees and National Congress.

Why did you pursue a career in engineering?
It was engineering or farming, and my grandfather made the decision for me by selling the farm. I was lucky enough to gain an engineering cadetship with the Hydro-Electric Commission and the work just seemed so natural to me. I just loved the learning and the practice of engineering. I still do.

How can Australian communities/people/society benefit from your work now and in the future?
The renewables work that I am involved in is equally applicable to Australia, in particular in some of the more remote inland regions and off-shore islands. As traditional coal-fired generation is retired our current paradigm of centralised generation will become redundant. In many rural situations village-sized smart mini-grids have the potential to meet local demand without the need for long bushfire-prone distribution feeders.

What is the most challenging or interesting project you’ve ever worked on?
It’s hard to look back over a fifty-year career and pick one particular project. In the last few years I would have to say the Yap Renewable Energy Development Project in Micronesia was the most challenging and interesting for me. The project consisted of typhoon-resistant wind turbines, solar, new high-speed diesels and system integration equipment. All specification and procurement documents were prepared on-island over a one-month period. This has been made possible because of the strong commitment of the local State Government to minimise diesel consumption by maximising renewables generation.

What do you see as one of the biggest issues facing the engineering profession?
For as long as I have been involved with the profession, we have grappled with a lack of public recognition for engineering as a profession, and we don’t seem to have made much progress.

State registration will go some way to improving this situation, but as long as anyone with a spanner in their hand can call themselves an engineer we will not be clearly differentiated and acknowledged for the work we do.

What excites you about the future of the profession or what opportunities do you see for the future?
The profession endeavours to make the world a better place. In order to do this, we need to improve our efforts in foreseeing and keeping ahead of changing climate conditions. We need to work with other professions to inform our politicians of these changes and the steps necessary to mitigate their impacts. We then need to lobby them to legislate for those changes.

Who is your engineering hero?
Around 6000 years ago the ancestors of the Gunditjmara people surveyed and excavated a network of canals and dams from solid basalt to create a vast eel farm at Budj Bim in Victoria. I am in awe of their achievement.