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Dr Stephanie Hirmer Postdoctoral Researcher


Stephanie Hirmer BEng DPhil MPhil

Postdoctoral Researcher


Stephanie Hirmer is a researcher at the Energy and Power Group. She is also a Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Sustainable Development at the University of Cambridge where she completed here PhD and now delivers a course on Energy, Development and Rural Livelihood. She is a co-founder and technical director at Rural Senses Ltd., a social enterprise that aims to deliver projects that truly benefit and empower receiving communities.

Previously, Stephanie worked as a researcher for the Smart Villages Initiative; lived and worked in rural Uganda and Germany where she worked as a consultant for the German Development Agency (GIZ). As part of this work 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.

Research Interests

Stephanie’s primary research interest is on understanding what is important to project beneficiaries when it comes to infrastructure design solutions. She has developed a novel value driven approach – complementary to traditional needs assessments or socio-economic surveys – that, by means of indirect probing, helps to uncover what is of value to project beneficiaries. 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”.

Her research interests include:

  • The role of energy access for the marginalised (Productive Uses of Energy (PUE), energy poverty etc.)
  • End-user decision-making (User-Perceived Value (UPV), consumer behaviour etc.)
  • Cross-sectoral design/planning approaches (system integration, transdisciplinary decision making etc.)
  • The influence of and being influenced by non-energy sectors (non-energy energy policy)
  • Decision making of key stakeholders (e.g. power dynamics, priorities, influencers etc.) and its impact on infrastructure design solutions
Google Scholar

Current Projects

Stephi’s research 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.

As part of this role she is developing an ‘Impact of Delivery to Effort for Delivery’ framework which seeks to identify the best solutions for Productive Uses of Energy in varying settings.

Research Groups


  • 2017. “The benefits of energy appliances in the off-grid energy sector based on seven off-grid initiatives in rural Uganda” (with Guthrie P.), Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. Elsevier, 79, pp. 924-934. doi: 10.1016/j.rser.2017.05.152
  • 2016. ‘Identifying the needs of communities in rural Uganda: A method for determining the “User-Perceived Value” of rural electrification initiatives’ (with Guthrie P.), Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. Elsevier, 66, pp. 476–486. doi: 10.1016/j.rser.2016.08.037.
  • 2016. ‘Identifying user-perceived value as a tool to long-term success of initiatives targeting lower-income communities’, in Smart Villages Forward Look Workshop: Potential Breakthroughs in the Use of Energy in Off-Grid Villages Workshop. Cambridge, UK: Smart Villages Initiative, p. 18–19.
  • 2016. “The water-energy-food nexus in West Africa” Smart Villages Initiative, Policy Brief, Briefing No. 19, August 2016.
  • 2015. ‘The potential for vertical gardens as evaporative coolers: An adaptation of the ‘Penman-Monteith Equation'" (with Davis M.M.) Building and Environment. pages 135–141.
  • 2015. ‘Extreme Sleepover: Keeping the lights on in rural Uganda’, Research Horizons. University of Cambridge, 26, pp.34–35
  • 2014. “The user-value of rural electrification: An analysis and adoption of existing models and theories” (Cruickshank H.), Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. Elsevier, 34, pp. 145–154. doi: 10.1016/j.rser.2014.03.005.
  • 2014. “Making the deployment of pico-PV more sustainable along the value chain” (with Cruickshank H.), Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Volume 30, February 2014, Pages 401-411.