Kristian Payne


Civil Engineering Student

University of Tasmania

Kristian Payne is a qualified electrician with 14 years’ experience, and is currently completing his final year of a Civil Engineering degree. While studying full time, Kristian also volunteers as an Engineers Australia Ambassador at the University of Tasmania and was recently recognised by the Australian Financial Review as a Top 100 Future Leader 2019.

How long have you been a member of Engineers Australia?
I have been a member since 2016 when I commenced my Bachelor of Engineering degree, and for the past 16 months I have been volunteering as an Engineers Australia Student Ambassador at the University of Tasmania.

Why did you pursue a career in engineering?
Engineers are at the forefront of design and innovation. They can make real positive change from the concept and design stage right through to project completion. I’ve always been interested in engineering and physics, and I’m excited about the dynamic and perspective my trade qualification will offer my new career path.

How can Australian communities/people/society benefit from your work now and in the future?
The field of renewable energy is where I would like to take my career. I think this would be a very exciting industry to be working in, as well as one that is absolutely necessary. We need to move towards reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, and I believe this is one of the greatest challenges of our generation. The differences we make today will help future generations.

What is the most challenging or interesting project you’ve ever worked on?
I’ve had some exciting opportunities with my previous career as an electrician. I have been a part of the team looking after the Melbourne Formula One Grand Prix, worked on building the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre with my previous company Downer, and worked on the yacht Skandia, which took line honours in the 2003 Sydney to Hobart race.

However, my honours thesis has allowed me to tackle a subject I’m passionate about in my new hometown; I’m investigating the emissions generated by cruise ships visiting Hobart and composing a feasibility study into shore power technology at Macquarie Point. The goal is to supply the vessels’ energy demands from Tasmania’s hydroelectric network instead of the ships’ large diesel engines currently used for the duration of stay. At present, the fuel used by cruise ships is incredibly high in sulphur, and unlike parts of North America and Europe with restrictions limiting sulphur content in emissions, there are no such laws protecting Australia, except for Sydney. Tasmania is well-known for its pristine environment, which is currently being polluted by the ships filled with people that come to admire it.

What do you see as one of the biggest issues facing the engineering profession?
I think misinformation is one of the greatest challenges facing science and engineering. To effectively tackle an issue, we must properly understand it, and sometimes the information we use to analyse a problem is incorrect. Misinformation can propagate through the public and could affect the introduction of valuable, progressive policies. There is an overwhelming amount of information available, sometimes from sources with specific agendas or bias, and unfortunately this often leads to misguided views.

What excites you about the future of the profession or what opportunities do you see for the future?
I’m excited about the advancements in renewable energy technology and the different ways people are combating the issue of climate change. From breakthroughs in solar cell efficiency to Hydro Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation project, there are some remarkable things happening on this front, and I think that the future will be very interesting in this industry.

Who is your engineering hero?
Although technically a physicist and a self-taught engineer, I admire Elon Musk for his innovative thought and actions. He is aggressively challenging the global automotive industry and shifting the combustion engine paradigm that has dominated the previous 100 years. Recently, in a move to assist push the automotive industry towards all electric vehicles, Tesla’s patents were removed, and the technology made available in the spirit of open source movement. The purpose was to drive change, for the betterment of the planet, at the expense of his own technology and company profits. To me this is refreshing and inspiring.

Image: courtesy of Kristian Payne