Renewable Energy: a mess or a hope?

Joining us on the blog today is our colleague Eva Medianti, who writes informatively on the current state of renewable energy, the importance of switching from fossil fuels, and what is required in order for this change to occur.

Facts of energy usage

The world’s energy consumption has increased significantly, aligning with the growth in human population and development. 5 billion people on our planet enjoy energy to support their activities, but more than 1 billion people still lack this access. The biggest contributors to energy consumption are heating, cooling, transportation, and power. Energy use for heating and cooling accounted for more than 50% of world energy consumption in 2016. This heating includes water heating, space heating, and cooking. Oil use accounted for 32.9% of global energy consumption, which mostly related to transportation sectors. High dependency on private transportation significantly boosts demand for oil. Power demand, though not as significant as the other two, is also a large source of demand for energy.

Unfortunately, in 2015 the source of the world’s energy generation was dominated by fossil fuels energy (80.7 %), while renewable energy only provided 19.3 % of supply. The majority of this fossil fuel use concerned coal and oil. High dependency on non-renewable energy has numerous disadvantages. It produces carbon emissions, which increase global warming and trigger climate change. Climate change causes detrimental effects such as increased variability of climate, which increases the intensity and frequency of extreme -weather events; rising sea levels, leading to island erosion, which can result in climate refugees; and coral bleaching that threatens the marine life ecosystem and the fisheries industry. In addition to its severe impacts on the environment, fossil fuels such as oil are declining significantly. Therefore, the natural resources created over billions of years has been extracted and will soon vanish, all because of human activities in the past few centuries since the industrial revolution begun. Like it or not, the world must transform its energy supply to renewable energy. Otherwise, we will be unable to continue to enjoy modern development as we understand it.

The current progress of energy generation in the world

Renewable energy offers safe, environmentally-friendly energy, and is self-sustaining. Global renewable energy in 2016 was 19.3%, and within the last decade, it only increased by 2.8 percent on average, mostly by hydropower, solar power, and wind energy. However, its growth is only slightly above demand growth in energy demand due to the high increase in global population. The question is how to supply the energy demands of 6 billion people with renewable energy. Technology, funds, and politics will underpin the change required, not to mention the switch of mindset in energy preferences. It is a battle between the rising new industries and the enormous fossil fuel industry.

Where is Australia?

Australia is one of the highest per capita users of carbon emissions in the world (McCarthy, Eagle, & Lesbirel, 2017). It also depends highly on coal, both as its main electricity generator, contributing 63% of its electricity, and as a national income generator, with 90% of black coal production being exported. In addition, in 2016 38% of energy consumption came from oil. These numbers show the significant role of fossil fuels in the Australian energy portfolio. This highlights the importance of funds, stakeholders, and policy in the industry.

On the other hand, Australia has the natural resources for renewable energy supplies. Its abundance of sunshine and wind are two of its most valuable potential resources. However, it has not optimised these resources to its full capacity. Australia’s renewable energy generation only contributes to 17.3 percent of total energy generation. Its main resources for renewable generation come from hydropower, wind, and solar, which contribute 42.3%, 30.8%, and 18.3 % respectively. In relation to the rest of the world, Australia is ranked fifth together with Greece for solar PV capacity per capita category. Renewable energy sectors in Australia in 2016 provided employment for 11,150 people, with the biggest contribution coming from solar and hydro energy. However, country-level reports do not identify the progress of renewable energy by state. South Australia, ACT, and Tasmania lead the rest of the country in their energy policies and implementation, while Western Australia and Northern Territory’s programs are still in their infancy. Speeding up the renewable energy growth in all states is a major challenge. Increasing the rate of change is necessary to boost renewable energy performance in competing with the fossil fuels business.

In conclusion, shifting from fossil fuel energy to renewable energy requires considerable effort and well-planned strategies. It also demands that all levels of society make an energy preference decision, not just major actors with access to power, large funds, and technology. In other words, this change should happen on both a global and household level. Australia is an example of the struggle for change in energy preference decisions in the world. There is a long way to go, but it is not impossible. Energy generation strategy development should include social, economic, and environmental dimensions to create sustainability in human development. This is necessary in order for the luxury of energy to be able to be enjoyed by future generations.

Sustainability Officer (2017)

Development and Climate Change: The Case of Papua New Guinea

Joining us on the blog today is fellow MIDP student, Omega Nelson. Omega reflects on the complex relationship between development and climate change, and what inspired him to pursue a Master’s in International Development Practice at Monash.


A bit about myself…

My name is Omega Nelson, I am an international student from Papua New Guinea. I am from East Sepik province in the northern part of PNG, but I live and work in the capital Port Moresby. Before undertaking the Master of International Development Practice at Monash University, I worked for the Climate Change & Development Authority (CCDA) of the PNG government.

The CCDA is the government agency responsible for all issues pertaining to climate change mitigation and adaptation and is also concerned with strategies, policies, and implementation in relation to the PNG governments’ development aspirations. In my employment with the government of PNG, I served in several different roles, ranging from program officer to policy analyst, and eventually to management.

In my different capacities I have been involved in advocacy and awareness on climate change, policy consultation and formulation, data collection and vulnerability assessment, as well as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) international negotiation process. I have been humbled by the different experiences I have encountered so far.


Why International Development Practice?

My decision to take up a master’s degree in international development practice was strongly influenced by my line of work. Having worked in climate change mitigation and adaptation for almost a decade now, I have been involved in numerous programs and projects, many of which were extremely complex and multi-sectoral issues.

What became a deciding factor for me in choosing MIDP was that while working for the government, I was heavily involved in the formulation of climate change policies, strategies, and legislation. This was all well and good, but I really wanted to see how these instruments we previously developed would be translated into tangible positive outcomes for the people of Papua New Guinea. I felt that this was a real challenge for me as an individual moving forward.

The climate change legislation, policies, measures, and strategies are now in place. How does PNG take the step forward towards reaching its development priority of transforming from a situation of ‘business as usual’ to a more green and sustainable economy?


What I hope to gain out of my time at Monash

After completing my Master’s in International Development Practice, I hope to return back to Papua New Guinea with a clearer understanding of the relationship between development and the complex cross-cutting issues of climate change. I feel that with this understanding and the development tools acquired, I will be able to contribute meaningfully in my own way towards the advancement of PNG’s development in light of the current adverse impacts of climate change that the country is facing.

Omega Nelson

Life in the Field: A Snapshot

Have you ever wondered what life as a researcher in the field would be like? Are you considering doing some field work but are not sure if it is the right fit for you? MIDPA’s Managing Editor, Feli Bran, shares insights from her first experience in the field and reflects on the reasons why having some field experience is an invaluable asset for your future career.

As a part of my degree, I went on a three-week intensive course in Malaysia called Field Methods in Anthropology and International Development. It was the first opportunity I had to finally put into practice what we had been learning throughout the course. What I liked the most about this unit is that it gave you the freedom to design, implement, and present the findings of your own research project. Granted, there were some limitations, as we were not in charge of the recruitment process and there were also some time constraints. Overall, however, it was a useful snapshot of what life in the field would be like.

Most importantly, it really tested the cross-cultural communication skills of our team. It is vital to remember that solo projects in development are virtually non-existent. Thus, learning how to work as a team despite different backgrounds, opinions, and areas of expertise is critical. I am happy to report that this was the best group work experience I have ever had. It was clear everyone was excited and dedicated to the cause, and we made it through despite some unforeseeable hiccups along the way.


It all started with an intensive, week-long block of field methods, for which I was particularly thankful, as it served as a quick reminder of everything I had learned in Research Methods the previous year. We also engaged in some team-building activities to keep the ideas flowing and were introduced to the hearts of our project: our interpreters. Monash has a partnership with the South East Asia Community Observatory (SEACO), which is why the actual field work was carried out in Segamat and surrounding areas.

“Why Segamat?” is a question we all asked at some point or another. It is not as well-known a place as Kuala Lumpur, Penang, or Melaka. However, a particularity of Segamat is that it has an even distribution of ethnicities that mirrors Malaysia itself: about 50% Malay, 23% Chinese, and 7% Indian. Thus, the location was ideal to carry out research, as all ethnic groups would be represented in the findings.

Mind map and free listing

For our particular project, we were based in rural Segamat, as we were working with farmers to try and understand how they perceived their relationship with the environment. I am sure most of you are familiar with the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework. We based our project on its asset pentagon and narrowed it down to natural capital. We wanted to understand how the environment impacted on the livelihoods of these farmers, but also how their livelihoods impacted the environment.

Recently, there have been some controversies surrounding the sustainability of oil palm plantations. As a matter of fact, there have been some disputes between the European Union and Malaysia and Indonesia regarding these issues. That was something that really surprised us. We were not expecting the environment to be a political issue, but the more we investigated, the more we realised it was.

in the field

In Malaysia, rural poverty was addressed by forming FELDA villages. FELDA stands for Federal Land Development Authority, which is a centralised government agency that granted plots of lands to poor Malays in order to incentivise the production of rubber and, later on, palm oil. Because it is essentially state-run, we sometimes encountered certain resistance from FELDA managers, as they were suspicious of our aims and were concerned we intended to criticise their operations. This is why excellent team work was so vitally important. Without the language abilities, relationships, and cultural awareness of the SEACO team, we probably would not have been able to navigate these murky waters as effectively. We always discussed in class how context is crucial to understanding where and how a project should be carried out but it is extremely different once you are in the field. You have to question absolutely everything you know.

I used to think I was a worldly, open-minded individual, but this experience made me realise how many assumptions I made on a daily basis. As a somewhat hot-headed person, it was important for me to keep my emotions in check, not be judgmental or openly condemn people for opinions or actions I considered wrong. Sometimes I did not agree with what was being said or done but, as an impartial researcher, I learnt the importance of simply witnessing and reporting on these things professionally, even if I did not condone them personally. I think that is an important distinction we have to make as researchers and development practitioners, especially when working with marginalised communities that live by societal norms that are different to our own.

The difference I might never have made

Lesvos Gabriel Green

A brother, a mom and a dad, living together in a tight-knit suburban neighbourhood in the south of Norway. That is my youth.

Normal to some extent and in many ways sheltered. We were not much aware of what was going on outside the country borders. When we went on an outing, we might go to the capital or, if we were in a spending mood, we would go on a chartered holiday to Spain or Greece. Sure there were beggars and homeless people in our capital, and sure we saw the kids rummaging around the trash for food scraps in the foreign city back allies, but we did not much care. After all, we were there on a holiday, to have fun. If we entertained the idea of helping, we were told that we could not make a difference: “you cannot help them all”.

War, conflicts and starvation was something we saw on TV and the only time we volunteered to raise money for a humanitarian cause was when we were given time off school to do so. This is my story, but it is not my story in its entirety.

I do believe however it is representative of how many young adults of our generation, from similar backgrounds to mine grow up. Safe, sheltered, having never been exposed to war or real conflict, and never truly without enough food to eat. We never had a “real-world” problem. For one to want to fix a problem, one first has to see the problem. Growing up, it was far too easy not to see the problem.


Caught in the wrong direction

As almost a natural consequence of this sheltered upbringing, I went to study Business and Management at the University of Durham, in the North-East England. I believe this is where it all started. Through modules such as People, Management and Organisation, Integrated Marketing Communication and dissertation writing, I was for the first time taught to really think for myself, to question established truths. It did not matter whether Weber had said it; if you could argue your point, go ahead. It was not until a few months after my graduation that I truly understood the value of this.

Graduating from Durham, I was in essence taught how to make as much money as possible in as short a time as possible. I was therefore quick to say yes once the offer of an internship in Berlin dropped into my email. It did not take long however before the words from my lectures came back to me.

Working in Berlin, I suddenly found myself in a world where I was paid to make people consume as much as possible. It took me 2 months to realise; this is not me. I left Berlin, 3 months before the internship was over.

Arriving back in Oslo, having taken on a large amount of volunteer positions, almost volunteering full time – whilst at the same time starting my own company helping green start-ups become visible online – posts about the refugee challenge on Lesvos started filling my Facebook feed. My good friend, and now colleague Charlotte Vestli and I agreed: “we cannot just sit here and watch this”.

Two weeks after the first Facebook post in the beginning of September 2015, and after having raised roughly $9000 we went to Lesvos. I was supposed to be there for 4 days, returning to Norway for another volunteer obligation. I stayed for nearly 4 months.

Lesvos neal Mcqueen

Making a difference

On the very first boat I helped on 14th September, I was handed, to carry ten meters on slippery rocks to the shore, a 2-year-old girl by her mother. The boat had come in on a beach called Lighthouse beach, or locally known as Limantziki. The waters were reasonably calm but the boat carried 60 terrified, hungry and dehydrated people. The mother trusted me blindly, giving up her dearest treasure to a complete stranger, simply because I was there to help.

Lesvos changed everything: my values, my priorities, my need to make a difference. I no longer saw the everyday, easily ignored beggars on the streets of Oslo, or the kids at the trash bins, I saw boats. Boats and lifejackets. Loaded up at the forested coastline in Turkey, in dinghies made for 20 people, up to 70 people would cross the 8km stretch of the Aegean Sea between North-West Turkey and Lesvos. I was there on the beaches, over those four months, along with thousands of volunteers, to help them ashore.

Since then I took in hundreds more boats, coordinated hundreds of volunteers and witnessed thousands of people arriving on the shores of Lesvos: each with their story and each with their own faith.


The point of no return

On the 14th of September I realised that I could make a difference. That even if I cannot stop the war, save them all or be there for everyone, I can be there for that one person. Making no difference to the world, but to that one person, making the world of difference.

This is why I now find myself studying for a Master of International Development Practice at Monash University. I want to make a difference. Having co-founded Northern Lights Aid where we currently work in several refugee camps on the Greek mainland near the city of Thessaloniki in the north of Greece, I am lucky enough to already contribute to making a difference every day.

I want more. After being heavily involved in the refugee challenge for months I want to start working at the roots of the problem. Boats came to Lesvos for nine months before global society started to act. And when they did, well – while many of the solutions I am sure looked great on paper – they certainly made the situation increasingly more difficult for the people in the boats and the volunteers on the shorelines.

Call it a hairy goal, but I want to change existing policies and the inhumane structures blind to the realities on the ground, so that we never see a refugee challenge like this ever again.

Henrik Larsen

Development for Peace

FUrrego Main Picture

In order to understand the reason why I decided to study the Masters in International Development Practice at Monash University, I should first provide you with a quick summary of the history of Colombia.

A brief history of Colombian conflict

Colombia was a Spanish colony from the 1500s until its independence in 1810. Its history as an independent country has been strongly marked by violence and war, so much so that just in the Nineteenth Century we had more than four civil wars. The other major impact upon Colombian society nowadays has been the constant ruling of a small elite who have continued the status quo from the colonial era, maintaining the inequality that still characterises the country today.

At the middle of the Twentieth Century, leftist groups emerged wanting to fight the oppression created by this elite. However, the government’s suppression of these groups was so violent, they were forced to flee. And so, guerrilla warfare commenced as they hid deep in the Colombian jungle. This necessity, of the people to fight inequality, brought war again to our country. These groups, in pursuing control of the power themselves, began killing civilians indiscriminately and brought a sense of terror upon the population.


A brief history of this Colombian Felipe

Here is where my story begins, by the year 2005 Colombians were tired of this war of terror and gave big support to our armed forces to fight these illegal groups. Right after finishing school, in my willingness to help end the war that had cost too many lives, I joined the Colombian Navy. I have already been ten years in this institution and only now, by the combined effort of the Colombian Armed Forces, have we brought the main illegal group to sit and hold peace negotiations with the government.

All these years in the military have given me the opportunity to get to know almost all the corners of my country, to see the people’s needs and to witness the devastation that war brings. The only thing I could do at that moment as a member of the Navy, was to provide security and try to alleviate basic needs.


Linking development and post-conflict Colombia

Over this past decade, in my understanding of the major issues and the experiences I have had, I have come to realise that you cannot fight violence just with stronger armies: that is like fighting fire with fire. What the Colombian Armed Forces need are new ways to help the people, to offer more than just cyclic violence and illegal lives.

My goal here is to learn how to create Sustainable Development programs in isolated communities and communities that have been victims of the conflict. With these programs I hope we will be able to provide more than just the choice of becoming another illegal actor because of the lack of opportunities for a better future.


Why a Colombian naval officer at Monash?

In my search to find new tools to help the situation in Colombia, I started to look for other countries or places where I could take a different perspective of my country’s situation from outside the military. Australia and especially Melbourne is a place where I have many friends from back home and also it is considered the most liveable city in the world; what a great place to experience an example of modernity and welfare. I received a scholarship from the private sector in Colombia and the Colombian Navy approved my choice of study to help build new plans for a post-conflict society.

I decided to come to do the Masters in International Development Practice because it provides an opportunity to learn of the different trends in development and how I can better approach my goals and be successful in them. The other aspect that I find very important and interesting about being in this masters, that I had not considered before coming, is that it is full of enthusiastic people from different backgrounds and lived experiences.

MIDP offers a multicultural environment that I enjoy because the students bring their own points of view, different to my own, that are so important to understanding development.

This article expresses the personal opinion of the author and not the opinions of any institution mentioned within.

Felipe Urrego Gonzalez
MIDP Student