Spotlight - Kane Thornton, Climate Chief Executive of the Clean Energy Council

Kane has always been interested in what’s next. Whether that be riding the IT wave, or moving into renewables. Kane wants to make a difference and he’s not taking no for an answer.

Kane Thornton
Kane Thornton

Kane has always been interested in what’s next. Whether that be riding the IT wave, or moving into renewables. Kane wants to make a difference and he’s not taking no for an answer.

When will we finally resolve the renewables challenge and give some long term certainty to industry and consumers? It is this question that keeps Kane up at night. We can be leaving a different legacy to future generations - our current energy system needs to change. The reality is that our old energy generation methods are going to close down one way or another and we need to replace it with technologies that are proven and cost effective. The transition is on. It’s not going to be reversed. It’s now about how we manage it.

With more than a decade’s experience in energy policy and leadership in the development of the renewable energy industry, Kane has advocated for, and helped design, the policies that have been critical to the renewable energy industry's growth. When the discussion naturally shifted to the Finkel Report, Kane advised that he and the Clean Energy Council are looking forward to working with energy ministers and regulatory bodies to ensure these reforms are progressed and implemented in the most effective and expedient way. Australia needs to be much smarter in how we manage the energy system, integrate new technologies and take advantage of sophisticated renewable energy and energy storage capabilities. Doing nothing from a policy perspective is a disaster and we have to resolve the political uncertainty so that new investment can come in. This is the best hope we've had as a nation in a long time to have as sensible way forward to manage this transition. Hopefully the Finkel Review is the catalyst we need for change.

How did he get here?

Kane acknowledges that studying IT and working in the industry provided him with extraordinary opportunities. Like many in the early ‘90s,  Kane was initially attracted to studying IT because of its potential - it was spruiked as the way of the future. Whilst he admits to being like many first year students, adjusting to university life and its demands, he appreciates that the Information Systems degree helped him to develop a solid foundation. I had the breadth of some highly technical stuff with the broader business systems thinking layered on top. I was able to learn a bit of everything.

When it came to applying for graduate positions Kane did what most graduates do - he applied to every Blue Chip employer in the country. Among the many rejection letters, Kane secured a highly coveted position at IBM and he muses that undoubtedly, it was his client facing skills that appealed. Having worked in many customer service jobs throughout uni I think the IBM recruiter recognised that the value that I could bring was my people facing and  customer service ability. I could think on my feet, interact with people and build relationships.

At the age of 26, Kane secured a role with DFAT based in Tokyo as the Manager of IT Infrastructure for the region. It was the insight that this experience provided that really sparked Kane’s drive to complete further study in International Urban and Environmental Management and redirect his career focus. Renewables was, and is, the future - I was engaged in it and I had a  personal interest in it. Seeing industrial asian cities with horrific air pollution issues didn’t sit well with me. I wanted to make a difference.

Being out of the IT Industry for over a decade Kane never thought he’d be drawing on the skills and experiences he gained many years ago. They’ve held me in good stead. Consumer technology, digital disruption in energy and the discussion centering on the Internet of Things is very front of mind. Reflecting on his career to date, Kane shares that he hopes current students and recent graduates stay resilient. Rejection is hard, but don’t be disheartened. You will find an employer where your skills and competencies are aligned. Trust yourself. Be patient. It can take some time. He also reiterates that broader life skills and life experiences count. What might appear to be unrelated actually has tangible value. It’s how you get that experience recognised and build that into your story when you’re applying for roles or meeting with potential recruiters that is so important.