Energy security is a concept defined by the stark risks associated with any significant interruptions to energy supplies, whether short or long term. The underlying notion is that a steady supply of energy is critical to the functioning of society. Research in this area ranges from analysing the political, social and economic consequences of energy trends, to more case-specific technological and development initiatives that aim to improve local energy security.
Most nations, including many developing countries with surging economic growth trends, do not enjoy a high level of energy self-sufficiency. Domestic energy interruptions are damaging to the economy and potentially a source of social and political volatility. Moreover, there is evidence that the growing degree of energy dependence has the potential to create enormous tension between importing countries and their suppliers.
The Melbourne Energy Institute will promote a clear message in terms of Australia’s role, as an energy rich nation, in the framework of international energy security. This will be concomitant with a research focus on energy security in the developing world, examples of which are technological innovations that assist in delivering energy for small-scale agriculture.
Climate Change and Justice in East Timor
Only 5% of households in the rugged mountainous areas of East Timor (where the majority of the population lives) are connected to the electricity grid, and those that are connected face lengthy blackouts and inordinate prices (retail electricity prices are broadly similar to Australian prices despite per capita GDP being 100 times lower). With access to a reliable and affordable supply of energy being critical to meeting essential needs, there is a clear need for the construction of reliable and affordable energy infrastructure in regional E. Timor.
This project will conduct an analysis of the energy needs of people living in Ainaro, E. Timor and a survey of the opportunities available in the region for utilising sustainable generation and transmission infrastructure, including the use of distributed systems. The project will be a review of the political and regulatory challenges facing the delivery of energy infrastructure in East Timor and an assessment of how current regulatory frameworks exclude vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.
A study of the environmental impacts and costs of alternative models of electricity generation and transmission infrastructure suited to rural areas of East Timor as well as a study of the existing regulatory framework governing access to energy in East Timor and the equity challenges facing this framework.
An analysis of the relationship between wellbeing and energy systems that will contribute substantially to the literature on human development, equality, and universal rights.
An account of how the costs of climate change mitigation and adaptation programs in developing countries ought to be distributed that will contribute substantially to the literature on equity in response to climate change.
Natural Hazards in East Timor
Timor-Leste is a developing country characterised by a dispersed mostly rural population, mountainous topography, and heavy seasonal monsoonal rain. It additionally is located in an area of regionally high seismic activity and like many developing countries is afflicted by inappropriate land clearing and agricultural practices. The country is thus vulnerable to a number of natural hazards, principally landslides and flash floods, and less frequent but more devastating earthquakes and tsunamis. The country has little capacity to respond to these natural hazards and these events regularly damage or destroy infrastructure. The fragile road network is particularly vulnerable and when cut can isolate communities, or at times entire districts, for periods extending to months. Such isolation further exacerbates social, health and food vulnerabilities in Timor-Leste.
The University of Melbourne through MEI is currently working together with the Government of Timor-Leste to develop a Natural Hazards Programme that would contribute to the establishment of an effective natural hazards management capacity in Timor-Leste. Understanding that addressing capacity development in line with Government priorities is the best way to move forward, the project has received strong support from the Government. We are intending to work closely with Timorese scientists in the development of maps and databases relevant to Timorese interests, particularly as much needed infrastructure planning is developed. Development gains, such as large scale energy infrastructure, will be lost if risk and vulnerability to natural hazards is not addressed proactively during this early stage of development.
National disaster risk management is a priority of both the National Government and a number of non-government development organisations that presently operate in Timor-Leste. These organisations see sustainable and successful economic development as being based on reliable national infrastructure. Such infrastructure allows for the distribution of services, such as health, education and electricity, to the poor rural areas, provides greater food security, and links these communities more easily to the wider society. These goals align with the stated themes of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute.
Support data co-ordination across all government sectors by setting up a comprehensive central GIS database,
Build up technical capabilities through mapping projects and training programs,
Strengthening earthquake risk mitigation through the establishment of a national seismograph network
Provide support for the development of a simple policy and institutional framework for disaster risk management also suitable for climate change adaptation.