Vale Dr Hugh Saddler, Leading Australian Energy Researcher & Founding Board Director of the Australia Institute


The Australia Institute would like to extend condolences at the sad passing on 29th June 2023 of Dr Hugh Saddler, a founding director of the Institute and a titan of Australian energy research.

Hugh grew up while his father Bruce, an engineer, contributed to the development of the modern South Australian electricity system under the Playford Government.

A graduate of Adelaide University, Hugh gained his PhD in plant cell biology and membrane physiology at Cambridge University, where he was awarded the Henry Humphrys Prize, for the best PhD thesis by a St John’s College member.

After completing his PhD, Hugh became more interested in politics, society and the environment, and worked in London on transport and industrial development policy.

In 1974 Hugh returned to Australia to become a research fellow at The University of Sydney’s School of Biological Sciences and Energy Research Centre. He went on to take up many other academic positions, including that of Associate Professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy, which he held from 2016 to this day. He did his first work on climate change policy in 1988.

Hugh was a founding director of The Climate Institute (TCI) in 2005 and was in its existence until its closing in 2017. At this time he was one of the critical players that helped the legacy of TCI continue on at the Climate and Energy program at the Australia Institute.

In 2006 Hugh developed a methodology for tracking Australia’s energy emissions with a lag of only a few weeks. This work evolved into a regular update on energy emissions, published first by pitt&sherry, then the Australia Institute’s Climate & Energy Program, and now by ANU as Australian Energy Emissions Monitor.

Hugh was a founding director of the Australia Institute, serving on the board from 1994 to 2014 and on the Research Committee from 2001 to 2023. He was also on the Grattan Institute’s Energy Reference Group from 2011.

From 2003 to 2013 he was the Managing Director of Energy Strategies, a business that provided energy efficiency advisory services to residential and small to medium business sector clients in Canberra. This work included specialist services for low-income households in financial hardship.

One of Hugh’s most profound legacies is the reverse auction system he designed for electricity purchases, which saves Canberrans a great deal of money on electricity bills to this day.

Hugh’s research contributed to the Australian Energy Market Operator’s highly-regarded Integrated System Plan, a global benchmark for energy system transitions to 100% renewables. He also created a first-ever market-based method for tracking the share of renewable generation in an electricity system, taking into account not only regional factors but also inter-party trade in renewable electricity. In 2021 he published papers on energy transition indicators and (with Frank Muller) on carbon border tax adjustments.

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 also a regular commentator on electricity market and climate policy affairs in the national media and in online publications such as The Conversation.

Hugh was married to Marilyn Chalkley for almost 50 years and has two sons, Owen and Harry. He was a dear friend and mentor to many at The Australia Institute and we will miss him greatly.