As the first university in the U.S. to establish a School of Sustainability, ASU is an international leader in promoting sustainability research and education. ASU offers a unique combination of cross-disciplinary expertise and international country knowledge to support innovative solutions in every arena of sustainability, including energy, food and agriculture, and water management and sanitation, and biodiversity. At ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, more than 300 sustainability scientists and affiliated scholars from around the university share information on topics ranging from water, energy and climate change to the challenges facing the world’s mega-cities and the social implications of a future of constrained resources and growing demand. The institute gives ASU the depth and breadth to tackle projects across core domains of sustainable development in emerging country contexts.
Energy systems development and policy
- Energy research: ASU is a leader in energy research and innovation. ASU is home to Lightworks, a multidisciplinary effort to develop new energy technologies in photosynthesis, biofuels and next-generation photovoltaics. ASU’s Power Systems Engineering Research Center draws upon diverse faculty expertise in power systems, applied mathematics, complex systems, computing, control theory, power electronics, operations research, non-linear systems, economics, industrial organization and public policy.
- Training in energy systems development: ASU possesses immediately deployable technical training curricula on solar PV, micro-hydro, wind energy and micro/mini grid systems (on- and off-grid), previously implemented for USAID in 10 countries with gender-specific modules.
- Energy policy: ASU is an international leader in science and innovation policy. The Center for Law, Science and Innovation is the first of its kind in the nation, bringing together scholars from ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and School of Sustainability to promote innovative thinking about the laws, regulations and incentives needed to bring about a more sustainable future, and to address legal and policy challenges surrounding renewable energy, renewable energy transmission, energy efficiency, energy storage, water conservation, greenhouse gas regulation, air quality regulation and transportation, among other topics. ASU is also home to the Utility of the Future Center, which brings together leading-edge interdisciplinary researchers, industry leaders and policy experts to promote utility sector transformation, and the Energy Ethics, Society and Policy Initiative—a global network of scholars analyzing the social implications of energy system transformations.
Agriculture and food systems
- The Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems works to ensure food security through research and action to promote equity, efficiency and resilience of food systems locally and globally. The initiative fosters and supports collaborations and partnerships that deliver innovative, real-world solutions in public health, governance, technology and policy.
- Faculty at ASU’s Morrison School of Agribusiness, a part of ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business, comprise an active, interdisciplinary community of scholars conducting research in diverse areas addressing problems of food security, food systems, agribusiness, nutrition and related fields (agronomy, geography, life sciences).
Water sanitation and scarcity
- Future H2O is a groundbreaking new ASU initiative that seeks to fundamentally re-conceptualize our relationship to water—regionally, nationally and globally—through design, technological innovation and dialogue. Future H2O aims to create transferable lessons and scalable solutions for USAID Famine Early Warning projects; train the next generation of leaders in water resource management; foster public-private engagement for water security; innovate in the design of networked water quality and quantity instruments; and improve industrial, commercial and institutional water efficiency in urban settings.
- Watersim is an NSF-funded project that uses data analytics to examine the impacts of climate change, drought, agriculture and water reclamation on water supply.
- The Global Ethnohydrology Study uses cutting-edge systematic ethnographic methods drawn from anthropology to develop better responses to local and global water issues. The project uses social vulnerability assessments to link exposures to risks (i.e., climate variability and change, water scarcity, and floods), sensitivities to losses based on those exposures, and adaptive capacity of water systems in order to develop recommendations for enhancing social resilience and community capacity.
- ASU’s Water and Environmental Technology (WET) Center is an Industry/University Cooperative Research Center that develops technologies to detect, understand, mitigate and control contaminants in the environment that can adversely impact water quality. The center addresses aspects of water sanitation related to public health, including pathogen intrusion, disinfection, and contamination removal.
- The Decision Center for a Desert City was established at ASU in 2004 by the National Science Foundation to advance scientific understanding of environmental decision-making under conditions of uncertainty, organized around water and other environmental resource decisions in complex, dynamic urban systems. The center develops fundamental knowledge about decision-making from interdisciplinary perspectives including climate uncertainty, urban systems and adaptation decisions.
- ASU’s Center for Biodiversity and Outcomes creates groundbreaking, practical solutions in biodiversity by partnering with NGOs, corporations, governments and other academic institutions. This knowledge partnership approach works at local, national and global scales to promote research collaboration and actionable science and provides a platform for training and research experiences for students, scholars and future practitioners.
- ASU’s strategic partnership with Conservation International advances initiatives that protect nature, promote sustainable development and train the next generation of biodiversity leaders. The partnership connects CI’s access to opportunities for translating research into action with ASU’s deep research capacity to develop innovative solutions to challenges in biodiversity.
- The Conservation Solutions Lab (CSL), a partnership between ASU and Chemonics, brings together researchers and practitioners to develop effective community engagement approaches to conservation. CSL uses evidence-based practice to promote equitable, effective conservation measures that leverage the strength of communities to improve natural resource conservation.
Vocational Training and Education for Clean Energy (VOCTEC)
The Vocational Training and Education for Clean Energy (VOCTEC) program began as a partnership between ASU, USAID and the International Renewable Energy Agency, and since the project’s formal conclusion in 2016, has been sustained by ASU’s efforts to secure funding from 11 other bilateral and multilateral donors. VOCTEC strengthens renewable energy infrastructure and investments in developing countries by strengthening human capacity for clean energy systems, developing lab and training infrastructure, and preparing clean energy workers for certification for international standards with a special emphasis on empowering and improving opportunities for women. The program provides technicians with the knowledge, training and capability to install, operate and maintain renewable energy systems and the ability to transfer those skills to future generations. Technical training focuses on solar PV, micro-hydro, wind energy and micro/mini grid systems (on- and off-grid). To date, VOCTEC has provided more than 28,000 hours of training to more than 400 professionals in 14 countries, including Vietnam, Guyana, Liberia and Pacific Island nations. VOCTEC has also established significant local partner capacity through the creation of six self-sustaining regional training centers in Fiji, India, Kenya, Nepal and Tonga.
VOCTEC-led training at the Papua, New Guinea University of Technology/ASU Advanced Technology Innovation Center (credit: ASU International Development)