Monash and AEMO announce 2021 Zema Energy Studies Scholarship Recipient

by Ms N. Van Nieuwenhove, Monash Energy Institute

Mr Vincent Makota from the Faculty of Engineering has been selected as the 2021 recipient of the Zema Energy Studies Scholarship, which supports PhD students to address Australia’s energy sector challenges through multidisciplinary research.

The Zema Energy Studies Scholarship honours the memory of the Australian Energy Market Operator’s (AEMO) founding Chief Executive Officer (CEO), energy reform leader, and Monash alumnus Matt Zema.

Mr Makota’s research will investigate how emerging technologies such as grid-forming inverters can be used to reliably integrate more renewable resources with minimal impact into our transmission network, and be part of the solution for a more stable grid.

“Grid-forming inverters, which inject power independent of voltage reference and frequency, can be used as a grid-strengthening asset, but at the moment they have been limited to microgrids. My research will focus on how grid-forming inverters interact with other assets of the grid,” said Mr Makota.

Due to the increased complexity of today’s power transmission network, part of Mr Makota’s research will also examine how to use artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor the available data: “I will also investigate the benefit of using AI to automatically mitigate instability issues through controller tuning,” added Mr Makota.

“As the power system becomes more digitalised and decentralised it’s critical that we support the many bright minds working to solve the energy challenges we face as a community,” said AEMO Interim CEO, Nino Ficca.

“Everyone at AEMO looks forward to welcoming the next generation of thought leaders into the industry as we tackle the complex challenge of delivering secure, reliable and affordable energy to Australian homes and businesses. Together, we can further Matt’s legacy of energy sector reform and leadership.”

Mr Makota’s supervisor, Dr Behrooz Bahrani from the Department of Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering said we previously relied on synchronous generators to generate electric power and provide grid support, which isn’t sustainable in today’s energy climate.

“Australia’s National Electricity Market (NEM) network is very long and connects five regional market jurisdictions. Long transmission lines mean vulnerability to sudden changes in the grid.

“With the increasing penetration of renewable energy resources in transmission networks, system operators are experiencing various challenges to reliably integrate inverter-based resources into the grid. This is in particular more challenging in the NEM, which consists of a long, skinny grid spanning over thousands of kilometres with many weak areas,” said Dr Bahrani.

Dr Bahrani said Mr Makota’s research will be beneficial for grid operators, manufacturers and developers: “Through exploring emerging technologies, such as grid-forming inverters, Mr Makota’s project will aim to provide innovative solutions for grid operators, original equipment manufacturers and developers to reliably integrate more renewable resources with minimal adverse interactions into existing assets in the network.”

Beyond the annual stipend of $35,000, which will support Mr Makota throughout the duration of his PhD candidature, the scholarship will support him to access industry networks and specialist knowledge that will set him up for success.

“I chose to do a PhD at Monash University because of the strong collaboration between Monash and AEMO. The Zema Scholarship will give me the opportunity to collaborate with AEMO and energy leaders in the industry in Australia, which wouldn’t otherwise have been possible. I’m excited to work on solving real issues in the Australian power system and I’m sure I’ll also gain technical competencies and develop transferable leadership skills,” said Mr Makota.

AEMO with Monash University and the Council of Australian Governments Energy Council established the Zema Energy Studies Scholarship in March 2019, supporting multidisciplinary PhD research across Engineering, IT, Business and Economics.

The prestigious Zema Energy Studies Scholarship is an opportunity for those considering a leading career in energy. Do you want to lead change in the energy sector? Please contact us at energy-institute@monash.edu.

For more information about the scholarships under the Monash Energy Institute, please visit: https://www.monash.edu/energy-institute/students/scholarships