Global Research-Practitioner Network Enables Co-Production of Community-Based Sustainable Energy Solutions

Achievement date: 

The National Science Foundation (NSF)-sponsored Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies (QESST) Engineering Research Center (ERC), headquartered at Arizona State University (ASU), has evolved a global research practitioner network for sustainable energy solutions that magnetizes community participation in innovations that directly address social gains. Through the help of the QESST network, small businesses and NGOs build capacity by leveraging user-centered design practices for solar energy projects.


Action-based research projects generate collaborations between QESST faculty and students. By pairing this approach to research in sustainable energy solutions with a global practice network, the initiative improves energy access by better addressing the social values of energy. Researchers in ASU’s Grassroots Energy Innovation Laboratory and universities in Europe, Canada, India, the Philippines, Nepal, and Pakistan have participated with organizations around the globe demonstrating the need and demand for more feasible and humane energy innovations.


Support for international networking arose among QESST researchers participating in the Eradicating Poverty through Energy Innovation (EPEI) conferences, held in the US in 2018 and India in 2019. Interest spread among innovation laboratories focused on sustainable energy and through the development of national training hubs.Prior QESST research demonstrated the importance of using user-centered design methods to create solar energy systems that enhance the social value of energy and disrupt the energy-poverty nexus. As co-production methods developed, QESST researchers began to collaborate with communities and energy organizations to conduct joint research inquiries, deliver usable and meaningful knowledge, and facilitate research uptake.

As a result of QESST’s global research practice network, community partnerships focused on sustainable energy have taken place in Brazil, India, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Puerto Rico, Bolivia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Canada’s First Nations. Findings from these research collaborations reveal new insights that benefit additional work in the field. For example, partnerships in Puerto Rico compared how the energy-poverty nexus and social value of energy varies across communities. Methods for integrated analyses of the social value of energy in national energy regulation, policy, and planning emerged from a networked partnership in Sierra Leone.