Moran and team earn Distinguished Partner Award for International Community-Engaged Scholarship

March 26, 2024 - Diane Huhn

The Department of Geography, Environment and Spatial Sciences at Michigan State University congratulateEmilio Moran, a John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor, on receiving a 2024 Distinguished Partnership Award for International Community Engagement at the University Engagement and Research Awards ceremony! Moran and MSU colleagues Maria Claudia Lopez Perez and Rachel Mourão earned the award for their work on the Energy Convergence for Off-Grid Amazonian Communities project. The project, funded by the National Science Foundation and the C.S. Mott Foundation, works in partnership with the Laboratory of Renewable Energy at the Universidade Federal do Oeste Pará, Brazil.Emilio Moran

According to Moran, approximately 650 million people worldwide lack consistent and affordable access to energy. Many of them reside in areas not covered by their country’s national grid, and, as a result, they rely on expensive and unreliable diesel generators,” said Moran. He and his interdisciplinary team of researchers from MSU and Brazil are collaborating with four off-grid communities in Santarém, Brazilian Amazon, to address this issue.


Trailer for a documentary about the work Moran and team are conducting to bring sustainable energy to the Amazon region. Watch the full documentary from Brown Hat Media on Vimeo at 

“Before this project, these communities had access to electricity for at most two to three hours per day, provided they could afford diesel fuel for a community generator. This lack of reliable electricity prevented them from having basic appliances, such as refrigerators, water pumps, and internet modems,” explained Moran. “Grounded in the scholarship of energy justice, energy sovereignty, and participatory co-design, we are working closely with communities through steps that include dimensioning, planning, installation, training, and managing an improved off-grid energy system.”  

The researchers fostered community engagement through citizen science, participatory workshops, surveys, observations, and interactions with community members. Additionally, they provided training on technical installation and maintenance. “Each community now owns and governs a system co-designed to align with its values, needs, and local ecological characteristics. They are no longer in the dark,” said Moran.  

The Distinguished Partnership Awards are presented by MSU University Outreach and Engagement and recognize and celebrate engaged university-community collaborations that have the potential to address large-scale problems and challenging societal issues. They are jointly conferred on a faculty recipient and her/his community partner(s) and come with a shared stipend of $1,500.  

“The efforts of university representatives and their community partners is a true testament to the vast impacts that can be made when we work together,” said Kwesi Brookins, vice provost for University Outreach and Engagement. “We look forward to celebrating all award winners for their well-deserved accolades during the program.” 

Moran and his team were recognized at the University Outreach and Engagement Awards Ceremony held on March 21, 2024. 

For additional information, please visit Click here to view the full documentary The Forgotten: Sustainable Clean Energy for the Brazilian Amazon from Brown Hat Media on Vimeo