“I chose hydro and dam engineering as a career because it offered me the opportunity to be involved in projects which, I believe, make a long-lasting contribution to a society’s development, particularly in developing countries.”
After 35 years of delivering projects in dozens of countries across Asia and Africa, Andreas has recently relocated back to Australia to take on a technical role in Snowy 2.0, the first expansion of the iconic Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme. “This is a dream project,” he says, “something every hydropower engineer would be proud to participate in.”
“The Snowy Scheme is renowned worldwide not only for having introduced new benchmarks in tunneling and construction of dams and hydropower stations, but also for setting new health and safety standards, as well as bringing together people with different social, linguistic and cultural backgrounds.”
Andreas’ role on Snowy 2.0 is a fitting pinnacle in a career that began in the early 1980s, when he migrated from Germany to Tasmania. “My first job was with the Hydroelectric Commission in Tasmania which, at the time, was designing and building a number of hydro projects in Tasmania. Although I enjoyed working for the Hydroelectric Commission and living in Tasmania, I was always drawn to working in developing countries, and when SMEC was looking for dam engineers I decided to join the company in Cooma, where SMEC’s head office was still located in 1989.”
Over the next 30 years, Andreas fulfilled his dream of working in developing countries, delivering dam and hydropower projects from Papua New Guinea to Laos, Malaysia to Sudan, and Nepal to Botswana.
“Engineering is international and not bound to borders or cultures,” he says.
“I’m proud to have been able to contribute to irrigation, flood protection and water supply projects, as well as power supply projects, in Africa, South Asia, South East Asia and the Pacific region for communities where these services were limited or unavailable.
“Some of the highlights were the rehabilitation and redesign of an irrigation project in Cambodia that was destroyed during the Khmer Rouge era; designing a water supply dam in arid Botswana; tracking with a group of Chinese engineers through the foothills of the Himalayas to a remote prospective dam site in Nepal, and managing the design and construction of several hydropower and dam projects in Malaysia, including the Ulu Jelai Hydroelectric Project.“
Andreas feels that ‘the willingness to work in different countries and be immersed in different cultures attracts a certain type of person for whom bridging cultural divides comes naturally.
“It has been personally very enriching for me to live in these countries not just as a tourist or for short stays, but to make them my home for long periods of time, to really get to know the communities and understand their problems.”
One of the unique things about his 30 years at SMEC, he explains, is the variety of projects undertaken.
“Even if an engineer is predominantly working on dam projects, the type of dam, geotechnical conditions or purpose will vary. A hydropower engineer may work one day on a micro-hydro run-of river project, followed by a 1000 MW surface or underground power station, or a pumped storage hydro development.
“It is like changing jobs every time a project finishes and a new one starts, as all projects are different and offer the opportunity to experience something new and learn new skills.”