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Twenty students from a course on International Technology Transfer at affiliate member, the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, participated in a Vi videoconference on renewable energy technologies and development October 4. 

The lecture, based on UNCTAD's Technology and Innovation Report (TIR) 2011, was delivered by the Chief of the Taskforce on the TIR Series, Padmashree Gehl Sampath (pictured, right). 

The latest edition of the TIR proposes the implementation of renewable energy technologies (RETs) as a response to the challenge of reducing energy poverty while mitigating climate change, Gehl Sampath said.

According to the report, more than 20 percent of the global population (1.4 billion people) had no access to energy in 2010. Exploration of RETs from the perspectives of energy, climate change, development, and equality and inclusiveness is therefore imperative.

The potential of RETs to provide access to energy is great: they can supplement conventional energy sources (i.e. coal, electricity), and can reach poor local communities not connected by grid (through mini-grid or off-grip applications).

 “Access to energy is the backbone of industrial activity,” Gehl Sampath said.

Although developed countries have the lion’s share of renewable electric power capacity, the share of developing countries is increasing -- in particular for solar, wind power and biomass power -- as technological progress and greater investments are lowering the costs of production of RETs. In the case of solar energy, for example, the cost of photovoltaic systems dropped considerably between 2009 and mid-2010, she explained.

 “This is largely the result of a growing number of developing countries becoming suppliers of these technologies,” Gehl Sampath said, adding that higher energy demand in Africa, Latin America and Asia has led to a greater use of RETs in mini-grid and off-grid systems. In addition, rising oil prices (and the related uncertainty of their future development) led to a surge in the use of RETs at the global level.

 Technology and innovation capacity is key to the wider use of RETs, the report maintains. This involves not only the capacity of firms to produce new RETs, but also the capacity to absorb, adapt, maintain and disseminate existing technologies.

 At the national level, governments should tip the balance in favour of RETs through specific policy support for both households and firms. At the international level, the discourse needs to be framed within the debate on climate change and energy poverty, although “(c)urrently, RETs financing is not an explicit agenda in ongoing international negotiations on climate change,” she concluded.

The videoconference was part of the Vi’s support of MGIMO courses on electronic commerce. The series of videoconference lectures began in 2009 with a presentation of UNCTAD’s Information Economy Report for students in a course on electronic commerce. The TIR is the latest UNCTAD flagship report to be integrated into university teaching at this Vi member university.

"The presentation has been a very precious complement to our course on innovations in the energy sector," writes lecturer and Vi member coordinator, Anna Abramova, who initiated the regular contributions of UNCTAD researchers to the courses in her university.

Read the report