15 December 2014

ERC grant to support energy poverty & climate research

IIASA energy researcher Narasimha D. Rao has received a prestigious Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) for a project on energy, climate change, and decent living standards.

UN Photo

UN Photo

The €869,000 grant will fund a new interdisciplinary research project that explores the intersection between energy access, climate change, and poverty, led by IIASA Energy Program researcher Narasimha D. Rao.

While fighting poverty is a major goal of international organizations and nations worldwide, much confusion remains about how increased living standards will impact greenhouse gas emissions and future climate change.

Previous IIASA research has shown that access to energy is a key factor in lifting people out of poverty, linked to better health, increased education levels, and greater earning power. This research has fed into major global efforts such as the United Nations’ Sustainable Energy for All Initiative.

Preliminary research by Rao and colleagues, published in Nature Climate Change,  shows that previous assumptions about the contribution of increased energy access to climate change in countries may be flawed—that lifting people out of poverty may lead to much lower greenhouse gas emissions than, by comparison, rising affluence. (Read more)

“How much energy is needed to bring decent living standards to all? And what impact will this have on climate change? At this point, we can’t provide a good answer this question because we don’t even have agreement on what constitutes decent living standards,” explains Rao.

The question of decent living standards is one of the first that will be tackled by the new grant, followed by the energy requirements and climate-related emissions needed to make such living standards possible. The study will also examine how energy needs evolve as countries develop, and the resulting impacts on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

“This study is directly applicable to policy at both a country level and worldwide—particularly on the question of how to respect developing countries’ needs in international climate negotiations,” says Rao.

In order to comprehensively explore the connections between energy systems and emission of greenhouse gases and air pollution, Rao and new team of five or six researchers will use IIASA research models including the Model for Energy Supply Strategy Alternatives and their General Environmental Impact (MESSAGE).

“What’s unique about this project is that it brings together economics and social policy with energy and climate research,” says Rao. “IIASA is the perfect place to host such an interdisciplinary project, which falls right at the nexus of two of the Institute’s three major research areas: energy and climate change and poverty and equity.”

The project will also include collaborators in at the Norwegian Institute of Science and Technology (NTNU), Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) in Germany, and the London School of Economics.

ERC Starting Grants fund up-and-coming researchers with a scientific track record that shows great promise. This is the seventh ERC grant awarded to an IIASA researcher, and Rao is among a total 11 researchers in Austria who received Starting Grants in this call. Read more from the ERC.

About the Awardee: Narasimha D. Rao

Narasimha D. Rao joined IIASA’s Energy program as a post-doctoral research fellow 2011. He holds a PhD from Stanford University, California, and master's degrees in electrical engineering and technology policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Rao's research examines the relationship between energy access, human development and climate change. His current projects include developing an analytical framework for characterizing 'decent living energy' - the national energy requirements for providing people with decent living standards; investigating the determinants of income inequality trends within countries; and developing electricity demand projections. His methods include household energy modeling, econometrics, and policy analysis. More>>

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Last edited: 07 January 2015


Narasimha Rao

Senior Research Scholar Transformative Institutional and Social Solutions Research Group - Energy, Climate, and Environment Program


Poverty eradication and climate change: Is there a conflict?


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