Ergon Energy engineer leads local professional groupTaking a shine to solar has proved pivotal for the career of Don McPhail, the 2016 chair of Engineers Australia’s Townsville regional group.
As Ergon Energy’s senior network strategy and policy engineer, Mr McPhail focuses on issues surrounding the connection of alternative generation sources, energy storage and electric vehicles.
The Townsville-based role follows an overseas scholarship sparked by his work on the impacts and opportunities of the growing uptake of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.
Mr McPhail was born in Brisbane and “moved around a bit” as a child including time in Roma and attending high school near Woodford.
He was drawn to a career in the power industry and commenced as graduate engineer with Ergon Energy after studying at the University of Queensland.
“Given the geographical area Ergon Energy covers I began with them in Townsville, but also moved to Toowoomba and then Brisbane, where I finished the program and had been working on creating a strategy around addressing the impacts and opportunities of the growing uptake of solar PV,” Mr McPhail said.
“It was a catalyst for me in getting the E.S. Cornwall Scholarship that allowed me to then spend the next two years working abroad in the UK, Netherlands and US on global best practices in integration of generation, energy storage and electric vehicles into the electricity distribution network.”
He returned to Townsville about three years ago.
The growing focus on renewables and other new technology meant it was a particularly interesting time to be in his present role with Ergon, he said.
“It’s an area where not only is the technical side interesting, but so are the commercial, regulatory, legal, and stakeholder engagement areas as well,” Mr McPhail said.
Mr McPhail has been an active member of Engineers Australia for eight years.
He said his focus for 2016 as local group chair would include continuing the great work of the group over the last few years in delivering quality CPD (continuing professional development) and engaging with the industry.
He would also support Engineers Australia’s increased focus on advocacy and leadership in the community by the engineering profession, he said.
This was off to a good start in Townsville with a regional position policy released last year and an op-ed published in the Townsville Bulletin recently featuring 2015 local group chair Glenn Stephens.
“Probably one of the highlights for this year is we are aiming to host an event during Engineering Week in August to celebrate Townsville’s 150-year anniversary, and highlight the engineering history and achievements of the city, and involve the wider community,” Mr McPhail said.
This was likely to involve a display at Cotters Market in the CBD to share the information with the public, he said.
Outside his Ergon Energy and EA role, Mr McPhail said he loved travel and exploring – whether camping in North Queensland or venturing abroad.
“My wife and I bought an old miner’s cottage last year and so renovations now seem to fill my time, however I do make sure I find time for things like diving or yoga too,” he said.
“I’m currently completing an MBA and so enjoy continual learning.”
The Townsville regional group of Engineers Australia meets on the third Thursday of every month at 5:30pm at Seasoned on Palmer St, Townsville.
The group welcomes new members to come along and join.
It also encourages members to rake part in the group’s LinkedIn network at