Research & Innovation

Amro Farid Helping Lead Australia Into Net-Zero Emissions Future

On the other side of the world, Australia is undertaking a bold international effort to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia’s national science agency, has tapped many national and international experts to catalyze this effort, including Amro Farid, a professor in Stevens’ School of Systems and Enterprises.

As the Alexander Crombie Humphreys Chair Professor in Economics of Engineering, Farid has been integral to the development of CSIRO’s Smart Energy Mission focused on enabling Australia’s next generation of integrated and equitable energy systems.

A Stevens-sponsored Fulbright Scholar at CSIRO last year, Farid worked on model-based systems engineering for the Australian energy system. It was there he made valuable connections in conceiving what became the Smart Energy Mission.

"What I see as relevant here is a national science agency committing itself to working on a net-zero emissions future as a national endeavor and reaching out to experts across the world," said Farid. "I’m very fortunate to be one of them, using the most powerful engineering methods available to us today, which in my mind requires model-based systems engineering."

The Smart Energy Mission will look at the energy transformation challenge as an integrated systems challenge. Contemporary methodologies such as model-based systems engineering will be key to addressing the complexities of Australia’s energy systems.

In late August, Farid addressed a crowd as a featured speaker at CSIRO’s Innovation For Impact Summit 2023, in Brisbane. The summit was meant to bring together national and international stakeholders to convene a conversation about how CSIRO can accelerate impactful research regarding each mission.

"Naturally, the transition from the system that Australia has today into a net-zero emissions future, is a remarkably complex endeavor," said Farid. "Managing that complexity requires a really disciplined approach. My background in systems engineering specifically serves to manage that complexity with the three pillars of Transformation, Digitalization and Empowerment."

The Transformation pillar includes planning for problems that involve how energy facilities evolve from status quo to net-zero emissions facilities, presenting a large-scale computational challenge. Digitalization is crucial because to integrate solar, wind, electrified transportation, heating, etc., a more digitalized smart operation of the energy system is paramount. As far as Empowerment, Australian energy systems are fundamentally a socio-technical system that will require collaboration with key Australian stakeholders of diverse backgrounds to ultimately get social license and envision viable technical and economic solutions.

The key challenges of Australia's energy transformation include meeting national decarbonization goals, ensuring it best leverages its advantages in natural green energy resources, and maintaining energy security in a socially equitable manner. 

Australia has many energy carriers and a multi-faceted, cross-domain system in which economic, technological, regulatory, social and environmental aspects strongly interact throughout the energy transformation. Achieving the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 will require untangling this complex system to make informed decisions on how best to navigate the energy transformation. 

Fortunately for the Smart Energy Mission Team and everyone at CSIRO, there is multilateral support for net-zero emissions in the Australian government. Shortly after taking office in 2022, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said: "You can’t have one-nation solutions to issues which are global. They require international cooperation." Australia is committed to becoming a renewable energy powerhouse, adopting and exporting renewable energy to world.

An exciting aspect of this mission for Farid is that the methodologies that will be implemented to reach the lofty goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 are things being taught and talked about daily within the halls of the School of Systems and Enterprises – systems engineering, operations research, machine learning, artificial intelligence, socio-technical systems, etc.

So, it's not as if the wheel is necessarily being reinvented as much as the curriculum within SSE is being applied on a massive scale to combat a major issue facing the world. That's what systems engineers do: take on the biggest challenges with bold solutions.

The responsibility being undertaken by Farid and his team is daunting but inspiring, and he takes great pride in representing Stevens.

"I’m very proud to have been chosen as an American Fulbright scholar to go to Australia and work on a matter of national and international importance that is a lifelong passion of mine, using the methods that are integral to this organization here at SSE," said Farid. "It’s a remarkable alignment for me at present."

A remarkable situation for Farid, but also an inspiring project that puts a real-world emphasis on the value of the education being provided within Stevens' School of Systems and Enterprises.