Windmill farm-Photo by Tyler Wakefield
Photo by Tyler Wakefield

More than 1.2 billion people around the world lack access to modern energy, and more than 2.7 billion still use biomass for cooking. Residents of many rural areas struggle to find reliable sources of electricity and other modern fuels. These and other energy poverty problems have profound effects on human health, local and regional economic prosperity, and environmental quality.

Duke faculty with expertise in environmental health, development economics, and energy poverty are contributing to better understanding of these issues and ways to address them. Potential solutions include finding ways to deploy cleaner cookstoves and bringing off-grid renewable energy to remote areas.

The research and project-based educational offerings involve faculty, staff and students at the Sanford School of Public Policy, the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, the Duke Global Health Institute, and other schools and units across Duke.

Core Faculty

Headshot-Marc JeulandMarc Jeuland joined the faculty of the Sanford School of Public Policy and the Duke Global Health Institute at Duke University in July 2010. His research interests include nonmarket valuation, water and sanitation, environmental health, energy and development, the planning and management of trans-boundary water resources and the impacts and economics of climate change. Read more.

Headshot-Subhrendu PattanayakSubhrendu K. Pattanayak is a Professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy, the Nicholas School of the Environment and the Duke Global Health Institute at Duke University. He studies the causes and consequences of human behaviors related to the natural environment to help design and evaluate policy interventions in low income tropical countries. He has collaborated closely with multi-lateral agencies, NGOs, governments, and local academics in Brazil, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the U.S. Currently, Professor Pattanayak leads a new multi‐disciplinary initiative at Duke University on household health and energy and a faculty fellow of the South Asian Network of Development and Environmental Economists. Read more about Pattanayak's research.

Headshot-Tim ProfetaTim Profeta is the director of Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. His areas of expertise include climate change and energy policy, the Clean Air Act, and adaptive use of current environmental laws to address evolving environmental challenges. Profeta's work at the Nicholas Institute has included numerous legislative and executive branch proposals to mitigate climate change, including providing Congressional testimony several times on his work at Duke University, developing multiple legislative proposals for cost containment and economic efficiency in greenhouse gas mitigation programs, and facilitating climate and energy policy design processes for several U.S. states. Read more about Profeta's leadership of the Nicholas Institute.

Headshot-Jim RogersAs a Rubenstein Fellow at Duke University, retired Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers built coalitions of students and faculty to focus on the challenge of how to increase energy access for the 1.2 billion people worldwide living without it. Energy access in the developing world is also the subject of the book Rogers wrote while serving as a Fellow, Lighting the World, and the topic of a graduate seminar that Rogers co-taught with Tim Profeta, Director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. Rogers also served as a co-leader to a Bass Connections project team exploring rural electricity access projects. Read more here.

Research and Educational Initiatives

Duke faculty lead the multi-disciplinary Sustainable Energy Transitions Initiative (SETI), a global partnership that focuses on the important role that access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy can play in economic development. This growing network of international researchers is broadly concerned with the dynamics of global energy transitions in low- and middle-income countries, as well as their impacts on the environment and health. Duke researchers participating in the network have considered issues related to the demand for cleaner energy technologies, the impacts of those technologies on solid fuel consumption, exposure to harmful air pollution, and respiratory health, as well as the costs and benefits of improved cookstove interventions. SETI held its kick-off workshop at Duke in April 2016, in a gathering that brought together researchers working on energy issues in several dozen countries. Learn more about SETI and its inaugural workshop.

Bass Connections in Energy brings practical problems from the real world into the classroom, giving students a chance to tackle complex issues such as energy access and security in research teams alongside faculty from across Duke’s schools and disciplines. Following the 2015-2016 academic year, some students extended their work into the summer through DukeEngage projects:

  • WindAid: Under the auspices of this nonprofit organization based in Trujillo, Peru, students are given the opportunity to build wind turbines that are distributed to select communities that lack electricity. Three DukeEngage students worked on building wind turbines at Trujillo, then headed to the fishing village of Playa Blanca to assess the economic and environmental impact of turbines there while educating local residents on the benefits of this renewable power source.
  • IBEKA: Two students worked with this energy and economic NGO to assess a project that brought basic electric service to the rural Indonesian village of Kamanggih. Their review evaluated what types of electrification projects (micro-hydroelectric power, solar power, etc.) are most beneficial to the community and where IBEKA can have the most positive impact. Read the full report.

Learn more about these projects and their roots in Bass Connections in Energy.

In the spring 2016 semester, Duke offered this graduate-level course focusing on the need to bring electric power to the 1.2 billion people in the world that lack it. The class – instructed by Tim Profeta, director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, and Duke Rubenstein fellow Jim Rogers – focused on the differentiated energy challenges found in rural and urban environments, as well as technologies to help solve them. The class culminated with students working together to design the most appropriate model for deploying power technologies in a range of  settings across the globe.  

Read a full description of this course.

Formed in 2016 with a grant from Duke Support for Interdisciplinary Graduate Networks (D-SIGN), the Global Energy Access Network (GLEAN) brings together students working on global energy transitions, energy access and energy poverty. It creates a forum to explore shared interests, learn from experienced researchers and practitioners, and construct new statistical indicators around the theme of energy access in emerging economies. The group aims to ignite a research and policy dialogue around an understudied international issue, and to help position Duke as a central contributor to that dialogue within a global network.

In January 2017, Duke's annual Winter Forum for undergraduates will bring together 100 students for three days of intensive study under the theme of "Power to the People: Tackling Energy Inequality through Clean Energy Solutions." The event will be hosted by Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity and the Duke University Energy Initiative in partnership with the Office of Undergraduate Education.

Learn more about the 2017 Winter Forum.

The Global Environmental Health & Energy (GEHE) working group brings together students working on global environmental health, energy access and energy poverty. The group is a forum for students to share their own research and writing; to engage in a critical, interdisciplinary way with global health and energy challenges that, by their very nature, are not limited to any particular discipline; and to ignite a research and policy dialogue around an unfortunately understudied global issue. The GEHE working group is supported by the Duke University Center for International & Global Studies. 


Mailing Address

Duke University Energy Initiative
Box 90467
Durham, NC 27708

Street / Delivery Address

Duke University Energy Initiative
140 Science Drive
Gross Hall, Suite 101
Durham, NC 27708


Location: The Generator (Gross Hall 100C)
Time: 5:15 pm to 6:00 pm
Location: PULSTAR & ABB Raleigh, NC (Meet at Gross Hall atrium)
Time: 9:00 am to 3:00 pm
Location: Grainger Hall - Field Auditorium
Time: 10:00 am to 11:00 am