Down under – very much on top

Living and sharing electrotechnology: from teaching to electricity generation and distribution

By Philippa Martin-King

At the beginning of 2012, Ralph Craven, already one of the 15-Member IEC Council Board for the three-year period from 2010-2012, was appointed President of the Australian IEC NC (National Committee).

Ralph Craven, President of the Australian IEC NC. Ralph Craven, President of the Australian IEC NC.

A man of considerable experience

You only need to look at the CV of Australian-born Ralph Craven to know that over and above his qualifications he's a man of considerable experience with a substantial working knowledge of international energy markets. After being awarded a first-class honours bachelor’s degree in engineering at the University of Queensland, he obtained a master's degree, followed by a doctorate in electrical engineering, from the University of New South Wales. He's a Fellow of the Institution of Engineers Australia, a Fellow of the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand, a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a Chartered Professional Engineer of Australia.

Professionally, Ralph Craven has worked in a broad spectrum of privately-owned and state-run energy and resource sectors. In addition to electricity, these include coal, gas and oil and cover Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Switzerland. He has held senior executive positions in energy generation, trading and delivery sectors, set up high-voltage electricity transmission lines and substations and managed large-scale system operations and national electricity grids.

Comfort reaped from standards

Craven is an independent Non-Executive Director and chairs a major electricity distribution corporation in Australia that covers 97% of the state of Queensland. He's also a Board Member of a major Australian global wind energy development company and a non-executive director of a major listed oil and gas company.

If you ask Craven what he finds attractive about the world of International Standards, he tells you that one reaps comfort from standards. "There's a lot of work that goes into preparing a standard," he says. "When you put all the pieces together and build something according to a standard, whether the object is technical, or related to the safety of people or the environment, or any of the other range of issues that come into play, standards offer real comfort in terms of support and technical safety."

Through making an application for one of Australia's new pilot Smart Grid city projects he got to learn about some of the challenges involved in making Australia smarter. "The work we put in for that submission taught us a tremendous amount about renewable energy, sustainability and energy efficiency," he adds.

Having worked in energy and resources and overall infrastructure, he has a good perspective on how all the bits and pieces come together from a systems perspective – whether it's small or large. "I can appreciate the relevance of the IEC in fitting into the small parts of the big picture and how it is really fundamental in making the whole standardization process come together in an exact sense, as opposed to the hoped for sense", he says.

"It's like a Meccano set. If you have it all coming together and all the parts have been tested and everyone knows what they can or cannot do in terms of where their limits are, it all works out."

A strategist and a planner

"I've been through the entire process, from running national grids or large markets right down to very small systems and individual pieces of equipment," Craven says. "I've been responsible for lots of infrastructure, like building power stations, plants and transmission towers. You're there making things or delivering things to people. I see how all the pieces come together. The other perspective is in understanding how recommendations are made and approvals given in organizations. I've also been part of that process, from the moment of investment, the time of pre-feasibility studies through final investment to delivery on the ground. I'm basically a strategist and a planner. You have to put it all together, say what it's going to look like, how it's supposed to work and ask yourself whether it will deliver like it said on paper."

Differences in nomenclature not issues

Craven has travelled extensively and worked in many countries. When asked whether it gives him special understanding about people and on how to get consensus, he says, "No matter where parties sit globally, the issues are the same. They're just called differently.

"Whether you're Chinese, Korean, Australian or from Europe, you need to deal sensibly with the energy issues we're facing. There's a lot of rhetoric about doing the right thing for the climate and climate change. You need to make energy work for humans in a way that is efficient and effective. Smart Grids and smart cities are one of the ways now for people to think seriously about how we live in society and how we use our energy.

"Where you come from makes no matter. The frontiers are now between technologies and applications, and we need alliances between people and across frontiers where it's sometimes difficult to put the pieces together. It's all about how can we get the best out of technologies to which everyone has access because we're living in a global world".

The notion of electricity as a social environment

The new Australian President talks of energy as being our new social environment. We can't live without it now, and it is that appreciation which is leading many decisions at government and country levels. "You can't live without electricity. So, if you're not aware of the use of electricity and other energy forms, and how you interact, then you're not socially aware. Our way of doing things is going to be influenced by our move towards a more energy-aware society. We're all going to gain that consciousness."

Ralph Craven, President of the Australian IEC NC. Ralph Craven, President of the Australian IEC NC.
The kangaroo is a major symbol in Australia, host country to the IEC 2011 General Meeting. The kangaroo is a major symbol in Australia, host country to the IEC 2011 General Meeting.
World-famous symbol of Australia, the koala. World-famous symbol of Australia, the koala.