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Holly Bennett
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More than 40 academics, engineers and government leaders from Asia will gather at the University of Melbourne this week to examine how renewable energy technologies and systems can reduce poverty, address social inclusion and improve gender balance.

Held in partnership with the Asian Development Bank (ABD), the Second Lateral Learning Program on Smart Grid Technologies and Implications for Inclusive Development workshop will explore the impact and challenges of inclusive energy solutions in developing countries.

Workshop coordinator, Dr Reihana Mohideen, from the University’s Melbourne Energy Institute, says energy access and household electrification is still a major challenge in South Asia. 

“The impact on local economic development, health and wellbeing, education and mobility is huge,” she says.
“Without electricity, school days and study times are shorter, women can’t travel at night and maternal mortality rates and deaths for children under five years old rise.”

Drawing on research from the Melbourne School of Engineering and ABD, Dr Mohideen says the five-day workshop is about capacity development and knowledge sharing to address the social aspects of the energy transition in developing nations.

“Access to energy, and electricity, is a human right. We’re working with senior government representatives from the power sector in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka to improve the grid and service delivery – smartening it – to meet the challenges of accessibility, including increased demand, and social issues,” she says.

“Using the latest technology in renewable energy, we want to empower countries to meet the consumer needs of rural and urban communities who currently might not have energy access, or if they do, only have it for a small number of hours a day.

“We need pathways, plans and policies that don’t leave marginalised people behind. Ensuring access and equity is an issue in not just developing countries, but places like Australia too where energy prices are rising.”

The workshop, running from 2 – 6 October, will also look at the role that national electricity markets play in addressing equality and social inclusion.

“National electricity markets can generate employment and income in renewable energy, contributing to the local community. They also play an important part in providing tariff incentives for certain industries that support marginalised groups, such as the textile industry in developing countries that mainly employ women.”

The workshops series is part of a long-term collaboration between the University and the ADB. View the program