Tribute to Honorary Associate Professor Hugh Saddler

Photo of Dr Hugh Saddler in a blue suit standing with arms folded in front of a brick wall
3 July 2023

Big changes in society need capable people who make it their mission to improve things. Australia’s energy transition has lost a titan. Hugh Saddler was deeply influential on generations of Australian energy researchers, industry experts and policymakers. His impact came not so much from the public limelight, but from dedication to the best possible analysis, from relentless pursuit of understanding how the energy system works and how it can be improved, and from great generosity in sharing his insights. His work helped lay foundations for Australia’s transition to a low emissions energy system, one of the defining challenges of this decade and beyond.

A graduate of Adelaide University, Hugh gained a prize-winning PhD in biology at Cambridge University. He returned to Australia in 1974 to join The University of Sydney’s School of Biological Sciences and Energy Research Centre as a Research Fellow. In 1976, Hugh worked on the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry. He partnered in and managed energy and policy consulting firms from the early 1980s until this year. Hugh was a founding director of The Australia Institute, and a member of the Grattan Institute’s Energy Reference Group. He advised many governments, formally and informally.

Hugh had a long and close association with The Australian National University (ANU). He was Adjunct Professor at the ANU Crawford School, and an active member of the Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions (ICEDS) and in earlier years the ANU Energy Change Institute. Hugh was an informal advisor and mentor to many academics and students at ANU.

He did his first work on climate change policy in 1988. He led a business that provided energy efficiency advisory services to residential and business clients in Canberra, and his advice was important for the reverse auction system for ACT renewable electricity purchases. Hugh developed a methodology for tracking Australia’s energy emissions with a lag of only a few weeks, which evolved into a regular update on energy emissions, published first by pitt&sherry, then The Australia Institute, and most recently by ANU ICEDS as the Australian Energy Emissions Monitor.

He was the author of a book on Australian energy policy and of numerous book chapters, scientific papers, monographs and articles on energy, technology and environmental policy. He was a frequent commentator on electricity market and climate policy affairs in the national media and online publications. More often than not, his influence was behind the scenes.

Hugh will be remembered not only for his public-spirited research, his successful outreach and his influential advice to governments, but for his generosity in sharing knowledge and insight. He was a dear friend and colleague to many, and a mentor and teacher of many young minds.

He will be missed at ANU and right across the Australian energy community.

Hugh was married to Marilyn Chalkley for almost 50 years. They have two sons, Owen and Harry. He died in Canberra on 29 June 2023, following a long illness.