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Centre for Sustainable Development

Est 2000 - home of the MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

Studying at Cambridge


2018 Dr Stephanie Hirmer

Stephanie Hirmer commenced her PhD in the Centre for Sustainable Development in 2013. Her research focused on improving the long-term sustainability of rural electrification projects in low resource settings in the Global South. As part of this, she developed a novel approach – complementary to traditional needs assessments – that seeks to uncover what is important to project beneficiaries through a value driven approach. This is known as User-Perceived Value (UPV). UPV may be defined as: “the benefits, concerns, feelings and underlying drivers that vary in importance and act as the main motivators in the lives of the people—as perceived and defined by the beneficiaries themselves at a given time”. As part of this work, Stephanie also undertook gap analyses, stakeholder analyses, and reviewed and assessed business models for the off-grid energy market, for example.

Stephanie’s research was supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and Qualcomm European Research Scholarship.


She is now a Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Sustainable Development, University of Cambridge. As part of this role, she delivers a course on Energy, Development and Rural Livelihood (ESD1000). She is also a co-founder and technical director at Rural Senses Ltd. ( The social enterprise builds on the findings from her PhD research to improve project design, appropriate communication, and impact monitoring and evaluation in an aim to deliver projects that truly benefit and empower receiving communities. She is a researcher at the Energy and Power Group at the University of Oxford where she looks at 'Improving Sierra Leone's Energy System'. This is part of the prestigious UK Department for International Development (DFID) funded Energy and Economic Growth (EEG) applied research programme.


Previously she worked on the Energy-PIECES project where, together with Practical Action, she sought to better understand non-energy energy policy to enhance Productive Uses of Energy (PUE) for low resource settings in the Global South. She was also a research associate for the Smart Villages Initiative (SVI) and the Cambridge Malaysian Education and Development Trust (CMEDT) where she delivered workshops on different topics pertaining to off-grid energy access in India and West Africa collaborating with ECREEE, AfDB, EUIEI PDF, Energy4Impact, SNV etc. and undertook research on off-grid energy access.

She has lived and worked in rural Uganda and Germany where she worked as a consultant for the German Development Agency (GIZ). As part of this, she designed and implemented community-run hydropower schemes with local governments, worked on an up-scaling strategy for pico-hydropower and solar PV, and developed and implemented operation and maintenance procedures for the same projects.

She has also successfully delivered projects for clients such as KfW, Dorsch Consulting, Arup etc.

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