Ruth Julius using her energy efficient stove. Photo by Chilpiliro Khonje. Creative Commons Attribution Licence.
Ruth Julius using her energy efficient stove. Photo by Chilpiliro Khonje. Creative Commons Attribution Licence.

The Centre for Communication and Social Change, School of Social Science and UQ Energy Initiative, supported by the UQ Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation, have joined together to offer an exciting PhD scholarship opportunity.

UQ is seeking a PhD candidate in the social sciences to join the Energy & Poverty Research Group (EPRG). Enrolled in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and receiving joint supervision from the Centre for Communication and Social Change, the School of Social Science and the UQ Energy Initiative, candidates will contribute to a set of exciting new projects focused on understanding how poverty and energy are interconnected in developing contexts, and supporting enabling environments to effect change in impoverished communities.
The opportunity follows deepening collaboration between the Centre and the EPRG. Associate Professor Elske van de Fliert has been supervising PhD candidate Matthew Herington who is motivated by the role that energy systems play in the alleviation of poverty and achieving shared prosperity. His research aims to identify the drivers that underpin transformational change among the energy impoverished. The Centre is also preparing to welcome Yuwan Malakar, another PhD candidate supported by the Dow Centre, who will start in July and whose work focuses on energy poverty in India. 
Candidates should have a recognised Honours or Master’s degree, or relevant work experience, in social science, communication, community development or a related discipline. Field work experience would be preferable, and it is essential that candidates can clearly demonstrate research potential and an ability to thrive in multidisciplinary teams. 
Successful candidates will become part of a growing team of researchers at UQ addressing the energy grand challenge and specifically the fate of billions who are energy impoverished.
The PhD candidate will be working within the team of the UQ ERPG. Established by the UQ Energy Initiative in 2013, the pan-UQ Energy & Poverty Research Group (EPRG) investigates how energy access and poverty alleviation are interconnected in developing contexts. The group brings together transdisciplinary research capability and innovation to explore sustainable, reliable and affordable energy systems that are tailored to regions and societal conditions. 
According to UQ Energy Initiative director Professor Chris Greig, the collaboration with the Centre and School of Social Science is an important step towards achieving a truly multidisciplinary approach. “The challenges facing energy impoverished societies cannot simply be solved by technology alone. We need to consider the relationships between energy systems and society, including communities of energy users, people affected by energy production, social institutions, as well as customs and traditions. We are very pleased to incorporate the disciplines of communications and social change, and behavioural science within the EPRG, in addition to the existing engineering, economics and business disciplines.”
Modern, clean and efficient energy services are considered crucial for human well-being and facilitating social and economic development, attaining shared prosperity and achieving social justice. Energy poverty denies billions of people in the developing world access to modern energy services.
It is estimated that 2.8 billion people - 40% of the global population - do not have access to clean fuels for cooking and heating, and 1.3 billion people do not have access to electricity. These vast populations without access to clean fuels use biomass in the form of fuel wood, agricultural and animal waste to meet their daily cooking and heating requirements. The endless cycle of gathering and burning biomass in homes causes enormous damage to the environment, triggers widespread harm to human health and results in serious social deprivation, especially among women and children.
Access to the enhanced quality, security and affordability of modern energy is one of the critical enablers of the transformation from poverty to productive, socially and environmentally sustainable livelihoods. Providing energy solutions that are reliable, affordable and sustainable will have far reaching implications for food and water supplies and can help bring communities and societies out of impoverishment. The benefits of achieving universal access to the energy services that sustain modern life are broad and transformational. Ultimately, integrated technical, financial, business, community and capacity building models must be developed and used in conjunction with successful case studies to provide guidance on ways to effectively overcome region-specific barriers to modern energy services. 
The EPRG is proudly supported by the Faculties of Engineering, Architecture & IT (EAIT), Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS), Health and Behavioural Sciences (HBS), and Science (SCI), the UQ Dow Centre for Sustainable Engineering Innovation, and the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research).
For more information on this scholarship opportunity, please contact the UQ Energy Initiative

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