Graduate Student Network Imagines a World with Sustainable Energy for All

A few of the entries to ImaginEnergy

The Global Energy Access Network (GLEAN) is an interdisciplinary group of more than 50 Duke graduate and professional students who aim to advance sustainable solutions to address the world’s energy access challenges.

Yating Li, Muye Ru, Faraz Usmani, and Heidi VreelandHoused at the Duke University Energy Initiative, GLEAN received a Duke Support for Interdisciplinary Graduate Networks (D-SIGN) grant in 2016-17 and a follow-on D-SIGN grant in 2017-18. Doctoral students Yating Li and Faraz Usmani (Environmental Policy), Muye Ru (Earth & Ocean Sciences), and Heidi Vreeland (Civil & Environmental Engineering) served as coordinators. Their faculty sponsors were Subhrendu Pattanayak and Brian Murray.

Here are excerpts from their year-end report.

Speaker Series

A meeting of GLEAN students with Jim Rogers;GLEAN’s Energy Access Speaker Series brings world-renowned energy-access researchers and practitioners to Duke. Critically, the selection of speakers is driven entirely by the students who are part of the GLEAN community, ensuring overlap in mutual interests between visiting speakers and students.

GLEAN sponsored and organized the visits of three speakers: Professor Shu Tao (Peking University), who spoke on the rural energy transition in China; Dr. Akanksha Chaurey (ITP India), who shared her experiences developing a renewable energy strategy for Afghanistan; and Professor Jill Baumgartner (McGill University), who highlighted the importance of clean-energy programs in the context of air pollution in China.

The Speaker Series creates tangible opportunities for graduate, professional, and undergraduate students to engage with leaders in the field.

–Faraz Usmani

GLEAN’s visiting speakers recognize the breadth of talent and experiences that the students in the network have.

–Muye Ru

Case Studies

cover of volume 1 of GLEAN case studiesCurrently in its final stages of production, GLEAN’s second volume of energy-access case studies will present important research takeaways from up to five GLEAN members, providing distinct experiences on energy access across key regions of the developing world.

Focusing on a diverse range of topics—from the implications of improving energy finance for India’s solar industry to measurement of the impacts of cleaner cooking technologies in rural Madagascar—the volume aims to inform researchers, practitioners, students, and others working on energy access and energy transitions.

GLEAN’s second volume of case studies is expected to be released by the end of Summer 2018. The first volume was published in June 2017.

GLEAN members have contributed to a wide range of energy-relevant research applications across the world. The case studies collection will compile these experiences for policymakers, practitioners and researchers, who frequently find themselves ‘reinventing the wheel’ when engaging with unfamiliar contexts or communities.

–Heidi Vreeland

ImaginEnergy Photo Contest

Hannah Girardeau’s entry to ImaginEnergyRecognizing that visual media can highlight the reality of energy poverty in remote, rural settings in new and distinct ways, GLEAN organized the ImaginEnergy Photo Contest—open to students from across the world. The contest received over 40 submissions.

Winners—selected via a social media campaign led by the Energy Initiative—had the opportunity to display their photos as part of a DUU VisArts curated exhibition at Duke’s Brown Art Gallery, which runs through the end of Summer 2018.

Their photographs were also on display during the annual meeting of the Sustainable Energy Transitions Initiative (SETI), which was hosted by Duke for the third consecutive year in May 2018.

Lack of access to energy is a multidimensional challenge, and sometimes a picture is indeed worth a thousand words when it comes to demonstrating the scale of the challenge.

–Yating Li

About D-SIGN

This internal funding mechanism from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies encourages graduate students to explore beyond disciplinary lines, both in research and coursework. The goal is to enable graduate students to build or extend their networks and to integrate collaborative, cross-school experiences into their programs, thereby increasing the number of individuals whose graduate training reflects Duke’s commitment to interdisciplinarity and knowledge in the service of society.

  • See who else received D-SIGN grants in 2017-2018.


Photos: A few of the entries to ImaginEnergy; Yating Li, Muye Ru, Faraz Usmani, and Heidi Vreeland; a meeting of GLEAN students with Jim Rogers; cover of volume 1 of GLEAN case studies; Hannah Girardeau’s entry to ImaginEnergy