Remarks on the Section on Energy and Gender-Equitable Development
World Renewable Energy Congress-X
19-25 July 2008
Barbara C. Farhar, Ph.D., Chair
Presented at the Closing Plenary of the Congress
On behalf of the Energy and Gender team, I would like to thank the organizing partners and especially Prof. Ali Sayigh, Larry Kazmerski, and Bob Noun for the opportunity to hold the Section on Energy and Gender Equitable Development (EGED) at the Tenth World Renewable Energy Congress. I also want to acknowledge sponsorship and support from the UN Foundation and from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory for their support.
I acknowledge the members of the EGED Technical Committee—Gail Karlsson, Dr. Priyadarshini Karve, Dr. May Sengendo, Dominique Lallement, and Dr. Wendy Annecke—for their technical support of this section.
This was the seventh Gender and Energy Section at a WREC meeting. Highlights of our section include a Sunday Workshop, technical sessions, a plenary speaker, a Solar Pioneers Award Winner, and an outstanding paper for the EGED Section.
- Sunday Workshop. We had an all-day workshop on Sunday, 20 July 2008 at the University of Strathclyde. I thank Joe Clarke, Cameron Johnstone, and the team of graduate students for their support. The workshop involved sharing perspectives and expertise, and served as an excellent opportunity to learn about each other—both professionally and personally—as part of a diverse audience with multiple fields of expertise. The papers were excellent and effective, and were followed on by lively and candid discussions that continued throughout the week. We heard about interesting programs, appropriate technologies, energy businesses involving women (such as the Appropriate Rural Technology Institute's improved cook stove program and the GRATIS Foundation's jatropha oil and multifunctional platforms project), energy networks (such as ENERGIA), and policy innovations (such as gender auditing of national government policies).
- Networking. The networking opportunities were exceptional, with participants from Uganda, Ghana, the U.S., India, Sri Lanka, the U.K., Germany, Brazil, Costa Rica, Pakistan, Australia, and Iran, among others. Participants responsible for implementing and managing programs met people responsible for program funding. Many connections were made that I believe will endure into the future.
- Plenary Speaker. At Monday's plenary program, Prof. Lakshman Guruswamy, University of Colorado Law School, spoke on energy insecurity and the energy poor. He identified interrelated world problems: lack of energy access combined with wood combustion for cooking, mortality from indoor air pollution, and the contribution of black soot to global warming. In making his call for energy justice, he proposed a World Institute for Intermediate Sustainable Energy Technology (WIISET). The primary purpose is to attract partners from around the world who use intermediate energy technologies and would like to see them better disseminated. A web site and design center will serve as a dynamic repository, exhibition and showcase of these technologies.
- EGED Technical Sessions. Four technical sessions covered a range of topics relevant to EGED issues and concerns. They included presentations on increasing energy access through gender-responsive energy financing and microcredit in Uganda, women and biofuels in Ghana, energy as women's business; empowering women through microcredit in India, improved stove dissemination in India and Sri Lanka, solar cookers in Costa Rica, sustainable energy and the Millennium Development Goals, key issues in improving energy access, rural electrification in Brazil, sustainable home engineering, and renewable resources in developing countries. The sessions engendered lively discussions and sharing of information and contacts. Several graduate students and young professionals attended the sessions, and we would like to encourage more of them in the future.
- Solar Pioneers Award to Dr. May Sengendo, Makerere University, Uganda. Our section's technical committee and participants are very proud of the accomplishments of Dr. May Sengendo in moving forward the cause of renewable energy and gender in Eastern African, and especially in Uganda. She was honored by a 2008 Solar Pioneers Award, presented to her at Wednesday night's banquet.
- Outstanding Paper for the EGED Section. The outstanding paper for the EGED Section was awarded to Dr. Priyadarshini Karve, Appropriate Rural Technology Institute, India, for her paper, "Welfare Approach vs. Commercial Approach for Improved Stove Dissemination Programmes: Lessons from ARTI's Experience."
Much of the Congress discussion was focused on high-technology centralized renewable energy applications for the industrialized world. The gender and energy discussion focuses on appropriate technologies and their role in sustainable economic development using distributed energy systems. Because women provide 80% of the energy used in many developing countries, the concept of gender as related to energy is very important. Although there was some crossover between the rest of the Congress and the EGED Section, there was perhaps not as much as we would like. We would like to encourage more attention to distributed renewable energy applications. Perhaps the gender and energy discussion should also be held in venues more focused on development and should involve policymakers and government officials as well as sustainable energy technical experts.
Finally, at the last six World Renewable Energy Congresses, speakers for the gender and energy sections have clearly enunciated a persistent world energy and poverty situation in which, for example, 1.6 million women and children die prematurely each year because of diseases caused by smoke from cooking over open fires inside homes. We have spoken of the billions who live on less than $1 to $2 a day, and who live without electricity. So at this plenary, I don't want to repeat again the stark tragedies these statistics represent. Instead, I want to urge us to dig deeper into the causes of these problems' intractability—and to identify the ways in which poverty is institutionalized. We need systems thinking—to ask (and answer) such questions as "Who wins?" and "Who loses?" in the existing situation—so that we can more accurately diagnose causes and pinpoint effective solutions. We need to institutionalize sufficiency and sustainability. Massive wealth transfers to the developing world may well be required. The solutions will also rely on improved sustainable technologies and business models (even marketing to the "bottom of the pyramid"), but they will ultimately depend on the involvement, acceptance, and empowerment of women at the ground.
Further information about the EGED Section at WREC-X, including Dominique Lallement's keynote presentation for the Sunday Workshop, may be found here.
Updated: Monday, 05-Mar-2007 22:28:48 CST