Efficiency Leader with Dr Hong Xian Li 18 November 2021

The energy management sector is made up of many passionate professionals. 

In this month’s Efficiency Leader, we are profiling Dr Hong Xian Li, Senior Lecturer at Deakin University’s School of Architecture and Built Environment. She is also one of Australia's representatives to the International Energy Agency’s Energy in Buildings and Communities (IEA EBC) Programme. You can read more about the work of the IEA EBC and Australia's involvement in this global research conglomerate here.


Can you explain your role at Deakin?
I am currently a Senior Lecturer at Deakin University, working on high-performance buildings through energy-efficient building design, building prefabrication, and the utilisation of renewable energy.  My main roles include education, research, internal & external services, and industry engagement. As an integrated scholar, I apply my expertise from research to high-quality teaching and service. My leadership in research is reflected by the number of research projects where I am the chief investigator, engaging with industry partners and government agencies and delivering results that become published and high-impact journal papers.

What did you do prior to your current role?
Before I joined Deakin University, I completed my PhD studies and held a Research Fellow position at the University of Alberta in Canada, which is one of Canada’s top universities. I also had various opportunities to collaborate with academics, government agencies, and industry partners on critical research. This included working with prestigious organisations such as the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), and Landmark Group of Companies. My experience working in research rich environments has developed my expertise in a wide range of  areas in return, significantly contributing to what I am doing now in Australia. 

What is your company’s/organisation’s role in the energy management market and Australia’s energy transition?
Deakin University prioritises the energy management market and Australia’s energy transition as one of its key ‘Impact Themes’. This is underpinned by a vision to enable a sustainable world by leveraging research in the areas of environment, sustainability and energy. Deakin University is also dedicated to future proofing energy management, and has made significant commitments and contributions in seeking to mitigate climate change and enable a sustainable world. ,  

What do you enjoy about working for your company/organisation?
Deakin University promotes inclusion and diversity for our students and staff members, which provides a rich teaching and research environment with significant support. Within this supportive environment, I feel like I belong to a ‘big family’; I can reach out to our management team and  I work with our industry professors on exciting industry engagement. All of which promotes the university's research impact and reputation significantly.

What is the value of the International Energy Agency’s Energy in Buildings and Communities Program (IEA EBC)?
The IEA EBC is a great venue for knowledge sharing, development showcase, and networking in the sustainable built environment, with various specific research directions and subtasks.  It is a collective endeavour by outstanding researchers and professionals worldwide, showcasing leading technologies and cutting-edge research that Australia can refer to and benefit from. The IEA EBC also provides a great opportunity to demonstrate globally the unique achievements made in Australia. It also promotes international collaborations that can accelerate policy incubation and technology advancement.   

How do you champion energy efficiency in your own home?
I just moved into my first townhouse in Australia, which features sustainable and energy-efficient designs including:

  • It’s north orientation to the north to achieve solar access and passive heating in winter;
  • The ability to have natural ventilation and passive cooling when needed by opening windows
  • A solar tube brightens one of the toilet rooms without any artificial lighting requirements in the day
  • Affixed clothing racks in the backyard provides space for air drying laundry, saving a lot of energy that would otherwise be used by dryers; and
  • The use of greywater for gardening.

Do you now work from home, and if so, what is something you enjoy about working from home?
Yes, I have been working from home for more than a year. Productivity, flexibility, and efficiency are the benefits that I have experienced from working from home as a result of no travel and corridor talks. We also helped reduce CO2 emissions by working from home. It has  also allowed me to take better care of my kids, with more interactions, communications, and better meals (I am nominated as ‘Mama Chef’ at home).

When you’re not immersed in Australia’s energy transition, what do you do for fun?
I play guitar and sing sometimes. I also play a lot of soccer and listen to tons of podcasts.

What are you currently excited about in the energy world?
It is every individual and nation’s obligation to save energy and futureproof the environment for our generations. I am excited that we can significantly contribute to this mission collectively. For example, in one of my industry projects, our team managed to save 1,845 kWh of electricity use per month for one building, capitalising on our expertise in this area.
Energy supply security and climate change are the dual challenges encountered both in Australia and worldwide, and the building sector is one of the considerable energy consumers, using about 30% of energy and over 50% of electricity globally (International Energy Agency, 2018).  

Why do you value being a member of the Energy Efficiency Council?
Being a member of the Energy Efficiency Council provides various opportunities for professionals, academics, and government agencies. access to state-of-the-art development and technologies, the ability to connect with colleagues with the same interests through the network, and even identifying collaborations and making friends. Being a member of the Energy Efficiency Council also provides great opportunities for individual professional development.

Where do you see Australia’s energy and energy management markets in 2030?
Australia is committed to fulfilling its environmental obligations, which include meeting the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce emissions generated in 2005 by a minimum of 26% by 2030.

While only 6% of Australia's total energy consumption was derived from renewables (DEE, 2018) and 86.3% of electricity was generated from fossil-based sources (Clean Energy Council, 2014), it is imperative to seek effective pathways to close this  gap. With proper policy guidance, technology advancement, and infrastructure development for renewable energy, we will be able to fulfil our environmental obligations and futureproof the environment for our generations with collective endeavours.

This article was originally published in the November edition of Efficiency Insight.