UTS Zunz Lecture Series

Zunz Lecture 2024 – Transforming the grid: The challenges of rapid change

Australia, like many countries, is in the race to unlock the potential of renewable energy, and future generations and communities are counting on industry to make the right choices. But with the rapid pace of climate, technology, industry and community change, how do we match ambition with reality?

To help us answer this question, we brought together a cross-industry panel moderated by Thomas Briault, our NSW and ACT Energy Leader: 

  • Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte, NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer

  • Andrew Kingsmill, Executive Director, Technical Advisory Services, EnergyCo

  • Colin Crisafulli, General Manager Customer Future Grid, Endeavour Energy

  • Melanie Grills, Associate Principal, First Nations Programmes and Projects, Arup

  • Dr Ed Langham, Research Director at Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS

Our panel provided diverse and optimistic perspectives on the renewable challenge and opportunities from a government, science and engineering, energy provider, grid operator, First Nations and consumer lens. 

Watch the recording below of the event on 22 February 2024 in Sydney.

Watch the event recording: Zunz Lecture 2024 – Transforming the grid: the challenges of rapid change
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Here are some highlights from the discussion:

The task is at hand: Australia’s abundant solar and wind natural resources are prompting many people to ask, ‘Why aren’t we transitioning faster?’ The transition is accelerating, and the NSW’s Government’s 2020 Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap is providing coordination, de-risked investment opportunities and a plan to realise the state’s first five renewable energy zones.

Uncertainty offers opportunity: A renewable and decarbonised future for Australia is now less certain than it was in 2020. With rapid technology advances in battery storage and solar we now have a plethora of options to build a renewable industry. Private sector investment will drive which technologies will shape our future energy industry and infrastructure. 

The future grid will be distributed: Predictions show over 40 per cent of our future energy supply will be generated from domestic photovoltaic cells (household solar panels). Digital infrastructure and artificial intelligence will be vital for managing, measuring, predicting and distributing energy nationwide.

Projects must be community minded: First Nations people will need confidence and trust that renewable energy projects are consensual, respect community and take a case-by-case approach to enabling and empowering their effective participation. The best legacy we can leave is an unwavering commitment to facilitating equitable governance structures that endure across all project stages, tap into traditional knowledge of land management practices and actively seek to identify and deliver ancillary benefits for First Nations businesses and communities.

Consumers can drive change: We all have a role to play in the energy transition, and consumers are increasingly taking an active role in generating and managing their energy. Currently, Australia has 18 gigawatts of rooftop solar installed on approximately 3.4 million homes. When you combine solar with other assets like smart hot water systems, electric vehicles and home battery storage, we are approaching a scenario where in 2030 our biggest energy resources could be consumers.

Thomas closed the event by asking each speaker to provide one action every person can take to help accelerate the transition:

‘Buy an electric vehicle,’ Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte.

‘Support those investing in the transition,’ Andrew Kingsmill

‘Drive community consent and collaboration,’ Melanie Grills

‘Design consumer-centric projects,’ Colin Crisafulli

‘Join the YIMBY movement – yes (to the energy transition) in my back yard!,’ Dr Ed Langham.

Zunz Lecture 2022 – Resetting our cities: A new balance for a low-carbon world

17 October 2022

Our cities are the epicentres of crisis, from the global pandemic to the intensifying impacts of climate change. Rapid change is urging people, communities and cities to rethink urban spaces and how they will provide a resilient and sustainable future. 

In this constant state of flux, what is the right response for the best long-term outcome? How do we adjust? How do we press the reset button on our cities? 

To help us tackle these big questions, we are bringing together thought leaders and industry experts to unravel how we find a new balance for a low-carbon world. 

Ainsley Simpson, Infrastructure Sustainability Council’s CEO, will join us to discuss what a new balance could mean for cities. Dr Jennifer Schooling, Director of the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction at Cambridge University, will join us virtually to provide an international lens on our most pressing issues.

A graphic of hands holding a green Earth A graphic of hands holding a green Earth

We also welcome a cross-industry panel to stretch and test our future thinking, including: 

  • Craig Kerslake, Managing Director, Nguluway DesignInc

  • Michelle Tabet, Founder and Director, Left Bank Co

  • Emily Gentilini, Sustainability and Built Environment Policy Specialist, Arup

  • Dr Scott Dwyer, Research Director, Institute for Sustainable Future

Zunz Lecture 2021 – Powering Sydney’s Future

1 September 2021

In the 2021 Zunz Lecture we’re tackling one of Sydney’s greatest challenges – transitioning to zero-emissions electricity and the decarbonisation of all facets of urban activity. 

With estimates suggesting that urban areas are responsible for 75% of the world’s CO2 emissions cities are central to curbing climate change and its impacts fast. 

So, how do we speed up the transition? How do critical sectors such as the built environment and transport shift the dial now, by planning, designing, and delivering change that sticks?


Zunz Lecture Series 2021 invitration graphic Zunz Lecture Series 2021 invitration graphic

Join us to hear insights, ambitions and strategies from:

  • Hon Matthew Kean MP, Minister for Energy and Environment (Keynote)

  • Dr Kar Mei Tang, Chief Circular Economist, NSW Circular

  • Margot Black, General Manager, Corporate Sustainability, Investa

  • Nell Payne, Chief of Operating Investments, NRMA 

  • Malcolm Smith, Australasian Cities Leader, Arup 


Zunz Lecture 2020 – Water for a hot, thirsty city

5 November 2020

Water is essential for life in our cities, towns and our entire ecosystem. But – like all elements within a system – too much or too little can cause imbalance, stress or shock.

With greater climate variability as well as growing population and built environment demand on Sydney’s water supply, we can expect greater fluctuation in water availability – from prolonged drought to flooding. 

Zunz lecture 2020  boy under rainfall Zunz lecture 2020  boy under rainfall

Join us as we share insights into the role of water in a growing city and for the maintenance of biodiversity and life, discuss how we might move towards more efficient urban water use and explore how we can be prepared to cope with unprecedented events. 


  • Roch Cheroux – Managing Director, Sydney Water

  • Danny Latham – Partner, Infrastructure Investments – First State Investments

  • Joanne Chong - Research Director of the Sustainable Pathways program - CSIRO Land & Water

Read the wrap up here.

Zunz Lecture 2019 – Infrastructure resilience for uncertain times

7 November 2019

Zunz 2019 will focus on the opportunity and responsibility we have for getting infrastructure development right for future generations. We will discuss how the development of a comprehensive resilience strategy, careful prioritisation of investment and true multi-stakeholder collaboration can create a resilient and better future for our cities and their residents.

Our keynote:

Romilly Madew AO

Our panellists:

  • Jo da Silva OBE, Global Sustainable Development Leader, Arup

  • Paul Higham, Head of Service Planning & Asset Strategy, Sydney Water

  • Ramana James, Executive General Manager Safer Communities, IAG

Zunz Lecture 2018 – A tale of three cities

2 August 2018

Sydney is stretching its boundaries as a city. Beyond geographical boundaries, it’s extending its connectivity and transport, demographic diversity, employment opportunities, energy and water demands as well as its liveability and sustainability.

How can the city accommodate its expected growth while becoming a better place to live for its growing population? 

Our keynote:

Lucy Turnbull AO

Our panellists:

  • Kiersten Fishburn, CEO, Liverpool Council

  • Dillon Kombumerri, Principal Architect, NSW Government Architect Office

  • Dr Ian Oppermann, NSW Chief Data Scientist and CEO of NSW Data Analytics Centre

  • Louise Mason, Group Executive and CEO of Commercial Property, Stockland


Zunz Lecture 2017 – City shaping transport

9 November 2017

A digital revolution is transforming the transport industry, improving what we know about movement and passenger preferences and better serving commuters. This is influencing major shifts in our cities and the way we use them.

Our keynote:

Isabel Dedring, Global Transport Leader at Arup

Our panelists:

  • Tony Braxton-Smith, Deputy Secretary, Customer Services at Transport for NSW

  • Paul Oppenheim, Chief Executive Officer of Plenary Group 

  • Prof Elizabeth Mossop, Dean of the UTS School of Design, Architecture and Building 

  • Alice Thompson, previously worked for Prime Minister's Cities Unit

Watch the highlights

Electric future 2016 Zunz Lecture Electric future 2016 Zunz Lecture

Zunz Lecture 2016 – Electric future 

3 November 2016

Could that energy come from hydrogen? What are the prospects for solar and wind? Is there a transition path the community can accept – and a vision for the future we might embrace?

Our keynote: 

Dr Alan Finkel, Australia's Chief Scientist 

Our panelists:

  • Dr Adi Paterson, CEO of ANSTO

  • Nicola Ison, Institute For Sustainable Futures

  • John Pierce, Chair of the Australian Energy Market Commission

  • Dr Robert Barr AM, Managing Director of Electric Power Consulting

Zunz Lecture 2015 – The promise of big data

5 November 2015

Data is being collected, stored, and examined at an unprecedented scale and pace, thanks to recent technologies and the increasing digitisation of our lives. The emerging trend, 'big data', is revolutionising the way many industries operate and delivering completely new insights into the world around us.

Our keynote: 

Professor Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, University of Oxford academic and co-author of Big Data: A revolution that will transform how we live, work, and think

Our panelists:

  • Dr Kate Cornick, Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society

  • Brad Lorge, Premonition

  • Professor Louisa Jorm, Centre for Big Data Research in Health, UNSW 

  • Professor Paul Kennedy, School of Software, UTS

Zunz Lecture 2014 – Regenerating Sydney

18 November 2014

Regeneration and participation were the two keys words at the UTS Zunz Lecture: Regenerating Sydney, Why Now?

Our panelists:

  • Jackie Sadek, Policy Adviser to the UK Minister for Cities

  • Nazha Saad, CEO of St George Community Housing 

  • Nicholas Brooke, Chairman of the Harbourfront Commission in Hong Kong 

  • Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, Executive Director of Transfield Holdings and Founder of the New Democracy Foundation

Zunz Lecture 2013 – What do you re-imagine for the “Quay” to Sydney

30 October 2013

The 2013 UTS Zunz Lecture on the topic of “Re-imagining the Quay to our City” was held in Sydney on 30 October.  Hosted in the Sydney Opera House and sponsored by Arup, the event attracted over 300 guests and general public, and asked how we might revitalise the Circular Quay precinct, Sydney’s “gateway”.  A key challenge for the Circular Quay precinct is reconnecting its history, culture, pedestrian enjoyment, transport access, and ongoing CBD property development, and this is a key space for Arup to be nurturing debate and stimulating solutions.

Our panelists:

  • Catherine Gallagher, CEO of the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority

  • Richard Rogers and Ivan Harbour, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners 

  • Clover Moore, Lord Mayor, City of Sydney

  • The Hon. Bruce Baird AM, Chairman of the Tourism & Transport Forum

  • Louise Mason, Managing Director of AMP Capital Office & Industrial

  • Malcolm Smith, Arup Fellow and global head of masterplanning

Zunz Lecture Series 2012 – Future cities

12 November 2012

Former South Australian premier Mike Rann spoke at the Zunz Lecture series on how we can create more liveable, environmentally sustainable and commercially vibrant cities. Mr Rann discussed the South Australian Strategic Plan, which includes the multi-billion dollar revitalisation of Adelaide. Inner city Adelaide is now the national pilot for an integrated design strategy, with lessons for all Australian cities on becoming more liveable for local communities.

Joining the discussion was John Tabart, CEO of Barangaroo Delivery Authority, on how the new development at Barangaroo will not only change the skyline of Sydney, but revitalise an underutilised section of the CBD.

Ove Arup with Jack Zunz Ove Arup with Jack Zunz

Zunz Lecture Series 2011 – Do great buildings make great cities?

Do great buildings make great cities? Sydney is a city with its share of great buildings. While a Sydney Opera House or Harbour Bridge are glorious ambassadors for their city, what is their impact on the life of the place and the people? 

Our panelists: 

  • Dr Elizabeth Farrelly, writer and social commentator

  • The Hon. Nick Greiner, former Premier of New South Wales; current Chairman of Infrastructure NSW

  • Graham Jahn, architect and Director of Planning, Development and Transport for the City of Sydney

  • Professor Stuart White, Director, Institute of Sustainable Futures, University of Technology, Sydney