Renewable Energy — Fringe and Boring but Now in Public Eye!

Mark Schneider presented his million dollar budgets, his university life-changing decisions, how his team made a Pygmy Blue-tongue Lizard reserve and how his love for speaking changed his career from an engineering student to a renewables and environment consultant. Mark was accompanied to this monthly college formal dinner by his wife Ariane, who helped him remember the name of the company who offered him his first job. Mark answered some questions like- Can you make money from renewable energy? At whose cost? Why electricity prices are high? And the political argument which surround this topic.

Mark graduated from the University of Sydney in 1987 with a BE Honours in electrical engineering, pure math and computer science. Since the age of 10 he wanted to be an engineer but his love of speaking is what, after 7 years in the software developing field, gave him courage to shift to the renewable energy and environment field as a consultant, now principal. One of the major projects in his career has been the Hornsdale Wind Farm which is around 250 kms from Adelaide. He adds that he believed in the project when no one else did, and was determined that the site had the three things which a wind farm needs, wind, open space and population nearby.

The evening began with Chelsea, who is a recorded singer, and Theo, a talented piano player, singing a beautiful song “Wings”, which complemented the evening perfectly! The lamb dinner was delicious thanks to the effort of the head Chef Robert and his hard-working team.

As plates cleared, Peleg gave an interesting and detailed welcome introduction to Mark, who told us there would be no technical engineering terms mentioned. He was right about that.  He made all the residents understand the actual meaning of renewable energy, the cost involved, the process of building a wind farm, who is going to benefit from it and who’s not, how renewable energy is the cheapest source to generate electricity, its storage and transfer process, how the cost of solar energy has dropped from $92 in 2013 to $55 presently.

For many of us, a most interesting part was learning of the re-discovery of the Pygmy Blue-tongue Lizards who now have their own reserve.

Mark offered us new way of thinking about renewable electricity. That it needs time, resilience, luck and patience to build. How it is no one’s loss and has value proposition attached to it and how one person should pick out winners in the field.

By – Vaibhavi Chabra(Mandelbaum resident)