We conduct research to understand climate change and examine energy policy and supply, as well as investigating the current needs of transport and infrastructure.

 

Understanding climate change

Prior to Federal Government climate change funding cuts, Prof. Peter Sheehan led a major program involving close collaboration with the Chinese Energy Research Institute on a range of climate change and sustainability issues. Some of the results were published in Nature Climate Change (Sheehan et al. 2014).

Prior to that, in a report Natural Gas and the Transformation of Energy Markets: China in a Global Context (2016), he discussed that as China and other countries sought to reduce the role of coal and oil in energy use, the interplay between renewables and natural gas over the period to 2030 would be shaping outcomes in many countries, not least China.

The report provided an improved knowledge base, on the key global factors influencing China’s structural adjustment process and on the progress being made in China. Based on a Climate Change Adaptation Directions Paper, the Victorian Government planned to reduce vulnerability in priority areas of people in community, environments and livelihoods and the built environment. Prof. Roger Jones carried out an investigation using the approach of taking the most ‘predictable’ variables, mean temperature and rainfall, and concentrates on the climate-related risks most likely to result in vulnerability (most of which are associated with extreme events), and diagnosed which areas of vulnerability may require the greatest attention for adaptation planning focusing on reducing future damage and loss.

Prof. Roger Jones and PhD student James Ricketts have been working on potentially ground-breaking research on understanding abrupt climate change, particularly the relationship between temperature increases in the Pacific Ocean and in infrequent but rapid warming episodes that rapidly change the risk of climate extremes.

Prof. Jones was also one of the lead authors of the 'Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change'.

Key researchers

Prof. Peter Sheehan, Research Director, VISES
Prof. Roger Jones, Professorial Fellow, VISES

Journal articles

Jones, R.N. and Ricketts, J.H. 2019 (under public review), ‘The Pacific Ocean heat engine: global climate's regulator’, Earth Systems Dynamics.

Jones, R.N. and Ricketts, J.H. 2017, ‘Reconciling the signal and noise of atmospheric warming on decadal timescales’, Earth System Dynamics, 8, 177–210.

Sheehan, P., Cheng, E., English, A. and Sun, F. 2014, ‘China’s response to the air pollution shock’, Nature Climate Change, 4, 306-309.

Reports

Jones, R. N. and Symons, J. 2017, Sectoral and Regional Vulnerability Assessment for Victoria, Final Report to Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Victoria Institute of Strategic Economic Studies, Victoria University, Melbourne.

Sheehan, P., Sun, F., Parker, S., Mountain, B. and Cheng, E. 2017, The Transformation of Energy Markets: China in a Global Context, Final Report to Australia China Natural Gas Technology Partnership Fund (ACNGTPF), VISES, Victoria University, Melbourne.

Jones, R.N. et al. 2014, ‘Foundations for decision making’, in C.B. Field et al. (eds), Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, Volume I: Global and Sectoral Aspects, Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

 

Resilience & transformation

Following the election of the Abbott Government, Commonwealth funding for climate change projects was withdrawn. However, increased funding became available for bushfire and natural hazard research. Some of this was channelled through the Cooperative Research Centre for Bushfires and Natural Hazards (BNHCRC). The University became a member and we were successful in applying for funding for several projects.

The earlier work, led by Prof Roger Jones, Celeste Young and John Symons, focused on Mapping and Understanding Natural Hazard Risk and Vulnerability at the Institutional Scale. It involved developing an economic geography and decision-making framework to assist emergency service practitioners with assessing and delegating shared ownership of risk.

Subsequent work has, however, been on increasing diversity in emergency services organisations which have sought to modify the characteristics of their current work forces to more broadly reflect the population they serve. The current project for the BNHCRC is The Diversity and Inclusion: Building Strength and Capability which aims to develop a framework that will assist better management and measurement of diversity and inclusion in the emergency management organisations. The work has been influential in the development of diversity strategies and policies in the sector.

A recent project Reimagining the Workforce: Building Smart, Sustainable, Safe Public Transport is funded by the Victorian Department of Transport and the Rail Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (RMCRC) aims to understand the current needs associated with the future public transport rolling stock workforce in Victoria, and in particular, the strengths, opportunities and challenges presented in overcoming the projected skills and capability crisis it currently faces, and the need for innovation.

Key researchers

Prof. Roger Jones, Professorial Fellow, VISES
Celeste Young, Research Fellow, VISES

Reimagining the Workforce: Building Smart, Sustainable, Safe Public Transport (Dept of Transport Victoria) (2019-2020)

The Diversity & Inclusion: Building Strength & Capability (BNHCRC; 2019-2020)

Young, C. and Jones, R. N. 2019, Risky Business: Why Diversity and Inclusion Matter, Report to Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, Melbourne.

Rasmussen, B. and Maharaj, N. 2018, Changing Capabilities of Emergency Service Organisations, Case Study Summary, Report to Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, Melbourne.

Young, C., Pyke, J., Maharaj. N., Rasmussen, B. and Jones, R. 2018, Diversity and Inclusion: Building Strength and Capability Literature Review, Report to Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, Melbourne.

Young, C., Jones, R.N. and Kumnick, M. 2018, The Long Road: Building Effective Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management Organisations, Report to Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, Melbourne. Mapping and Understanding Bushfire and Natural Hazard Vulnerability and Risk at the Institutional Scale (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC) (2014-2017)

Sustainability & climate change

Assessing the Economic Value of Green Infrastructure (City of Melbourne) (2015)

VU CRN Project: Water Management – Economics Externality Costing (2012-2014)

Valuing Adaptation Under Rapid Change – The National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) (2011-2013)

Building Bridges: Adaptation Industry Context Paper (Victorian Centre for Climate Change Adaptation Research (VCCCAR) Think Tank) (2013)

New energy policies (VEPC)

A major initiative has been the establishment of the Victorian Energy Policy Centre (VEPC) within VISES, led by A/Prof. Bruce Mountain, and funded by the Victorian Government. It produces evidence-based, policy-focused research, primarily for the Victorian Government. It has a high level of engagement with the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change and her Department, and plays an influential role in the development of renewable energy policies in Victoria.

Its reports to date have included an analysis of retail electricity pricing, the National Energy Guarantee and policy changes to ensure reliable electricity supply for Victoria. Its reports, presentations and commentaries have attracted wide media coverage (see details at https://www.vepc.org.au/).

It has an advisory board, consisting of Anna Skarbek (ClimateWorks), Prof. Ross Garnaut (Melbourne), Prof. Stephen Littlechild (Cambridge and Birmingham); Dr Stephen King (Productivity Commission), Claire Noone (Nous Group); and is chaired by Prof. Peter Sheehan (VISES Research Director).

Key researchers

Associate Professor Bruce Mountain, Director VEPC
Dr Steven Percy, Research Fellow, VEPC
Dr Kelly Burns, Senior Research Fellow, VEPC

Journal articles

Mountain, B. 2019, ‘Ownership, regulation, and financial disparity: The case of electricity distribution in Australia’, Utilities Policy, vol. 60.

Mountain, B. and Carstairs, J. 2018, ‘Batteries, interconnectors and institutions: The case of South Australia’, Economics of Energy and Environmental Policy, 7, 105-126.

Mountain, B. and Harris, R. 2017, ‘Grid versus distributed solar: What does Australia's experience say about the competitiveness of distributed energy?’, in S.P. Sioshansi (ed.), Innovation and Disruption at the Grid's Edge: How Distributed Energy Resources are Disrupting the Utility Business Model, Elsevier, pp. 83-99.

Reports

Mountain, B. R. and Percy, S. 2019, ‘Ensuring reliable electricity supply in Victoria to 2028: Suggested policy changes’, VEPC, Victoria University, Melbourne.

Mountain, B. R., Percy, S., Kars, A., Saddler, H., and Billimoria, F. 2018, ‘Does renewable electricity generation reduce electricity prices?’, VEPC, Victoria University, Melbourne.

Mountain, B. R. 2018, ‘The National Energy Guarantee: Decide in haste, repent at leisure’, VEPC, Victoria University, Melbourne.

Working papers

Mountain, B. and Burns, K. 2020, ‘Loyalty taxes and search costs in retail electricity markets: have we got it wrong? VEPC Working Paper 2003, VEPC, Victoria University, Melbourne. Mountain, B. R. and Rizio, S. 2019, ‘Do Victoria’s households leave less money on the table when they switch electricity retailers?’, VEPC Working Paper 1909, VEPC, Victoria University, Melbourne.

Mountain, B. R. and Percy, S. 2019, ‘The exercise of market power in Australia’s National Electricity Market following the closure of the Hazelwood Power Station’, VEPC Working Paper 1901, VEPC, Victoria University, Melbourne.

 

New economic models of development

Sustainable economic development models are increasingly focusing on health, education, small scale agriculture, climate change impacts and renewable energy as the key drivers of economic development for low income countries.

Our work across a range of these areas forms the components of new integrated development models looking beyond industrialisation as the catalyst raising the living standards of those in low-income countries.

Our study on adolescent wellbeing for UNICEF in Burundi developed some of these themes. It estimated the very high returns to investing in adolescent health and education. Adolescents (those aged 10-19) representing almost a quarter of the population, have a crucial role in the future prosperity of Burundi. The project involved high level of consultation with the Minister and Permanent Secretary for Youth, other relevant government departments and donors. UNICEF hopes that the release of the report can help encourage donors, who have left the country, to return. A new UNICEF study will investigate investing in education for adolescents in Syria.

A study supported by ACIAR of small-scale agriculture in Pakistan with the active involvement of the heads of state agriculture departments provides a model with wide ramification for the economic development of many low income countries.

Key researchers

Professor Peter Sheehan, Research Director, VISES
Professor Bhajan Grewal, Professorial Fellow, VISES

Rasmussen, B., Sheehan, P., Sweeny, K., Symons, S. and Maharaj, N. 2020, Burundi Adolescent Investment Case: Estimating the Impacts of Social Sector Investments for Adolescents, UNICEF Burundi, Bujumbura. Khan, M.A., Irshad, A., Chhajro, H., Kalhoro, N., Khalid, M.I., Khan, G.A., Rashid, K., Tareen, A.Q., Zafar, A.A., Grewal, B., Lang, J. and Sheehan, P. 2019, Enabling Policies for Developing Smallholder Agriculture in Pakistan, ACIAR Monograph No. 207, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Canberra, at https://aciar.gov.au/publication/Enablingpolicies

Sheehan, P., Lang, J. and Parker, S. 2017, Results of Data Collection for Existing Human Resources in Timor-Leste, Report to Government of Timor-Leste.

Journal articles

Wils, B., Sheehan, P. and Shi, H. 2019, ‘Better schooling outcomes for adolescents in low- and middle-income countries: Projections of cost-effective approaches’, Journal of Adolescent Health, 65, S25-S33.