Skip to main content

UNC Receives $4.8 Million Grant to Confront Energy Poverty in Southern Africa

August 29, 2017
Carolina Population Center

The National Science Foundation recently awarded a $4.8 million grant to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to help alleviate energy poverty in Southern Africa. Energy poverty is the lack of access to modern energy sources such as electricity and modern fuels, which are crucial resources to the well-being of individuals and communities, the environment and the stability and growth of national economies. In sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 620 million people lack access to electricity, and 730 million use solid biomass and inefficient stoves as their primary source of cooking energy.

The project is an NSF Partnership for International Research and Education (PIRE), an innovative program that promotes international collaboration among scientists to address complex, multidisciplinary problems. The Energy Poverty PIRE is led by Pam Jagger, an associate professor in the UNC Department of Public Policy.

The five-year grant is titled “Confronting Energy Poverty: Building an Interdisciplinary Evidence Base, Network and Capacity for Transformative Change.”

Pam Jagger hiking.
Pam Jagger, Associate Professor in the UNC Department of Public Policy

A main focus of the PIRE program is to train the next generation of scientists to solve complex real-world problems. The Energy Poverty PIRE program will provide training and research opportunities for 70 undergraduate and graduate students across disciplines including public policy, geography, sociology, forestry and environmental science and engineering.

Undergraduate and graduate students, along with faculty, will participate in research focused on energy poverty dynamics, and the impacts of a wide range of energy poverty interventions in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.  A main focus of the grant is interdisciplinary training that brings together social science research methods including rigorous impact evaluation and socio-spatial analysis, with engineering and science contributions including exposure assessment, life cycle analysis and forest management.

In addition to participation in field research, training opportunities will include research practicums with population and environment faculty, internships at RTI International and specialized undergraduate and graduate courses in energy poverty.

The Energy Poverty PIRE program is administered by the UNC Carolina Population Center (CPC). Co-principal investigators of the project are Michael Emch, UNC’s Kenan Distinguished Professor of Geography, and Barbara Entwisle, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Sociology. Jagger, Emch and Entwisle are CPC Faculty Fellows.

Core partners include North Carolina State University, RTI International, the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Malawi), Copperbelt University (Zambia), and the University of Zimbabwe. Undergraduate students will also be recruited from Winston-Salem State University and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University to participate in PIRE research projects.

For more information visit

More News