The Sustainable Energy Transitions Initiative (SETI) is an interdisciplinary global collaborative that aims to foster research on energy access and energy transitions in low and middle-income countries, and to better understand their impacts on health, social outcomes, economic growth, climate change and natural resources.

Energy has been called the golden thread because it provides a very important mechanism to reduce poverty, improve health, protect the environment and both adapt to and mitigate the effects of global climate change. As several global initiatives (SE4All, EnvDev) and the proposed SDG (#7) imply, deliberate policy and community action is justified because of very serious efficiency issues (truly scare inputs are being squandered) and equity concerns, as evidenced by energy poverty that hinders development opportunities. Energy poverty in the global south is a particular challenge for current and future generations: There is a systematic under-representation of science and evidence on its implications, and therefore on policies that can successfully address energy challenges in the global south – e.g., rural electrification, modern transportation, mechanized agriculture, and especially improved cooking, heating, lighting. We aim to address knowledge gaps by emphasizing social science contributions and the need for interdisciplinarity given the well-documented bias towards engineering, science, public health. We also aim to foster scholarship by researchers from the global south whose perspectives are grounded by the reality of energy and development challenges.

The Environment for Development program, in close collaboration with the Duke Household Energy & Health Initiative were well placed to form a global consortium to address this fundamental science-policy gap. We have designed deliberate and proactive steps including stock taking, laying the foundation for a self-organizing action research process, and continuing to engage key decision makers.