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Graduate Student Network Imagines a World with Sustainable Energy for All

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

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.

Housed 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

This year, the group focused on three initiatives to raise awareness of energy access issues: a speaker series, a case study collection and a photo contest. 

Speaker Series

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.

Case Studies

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.


Currently 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.

ImaginEnergy Photo Contest

ImaginEnergy contest entry

Recognizing that visual media can highlight the reality of 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. 

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