Transdisciplinary research methods in community energy development and governance in Indonesia: insights for sustainability science

Sebastian Thomas, Max Richter, Widia Lestari, Shiskha Prabawaningtyas, Yudo Anggoro, Iskandar Kuntoadji

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Community renewable energy can contribute to important social and environmental outcomes, and in less industrialised countries may be a means of achieving development priorities as well as climate mitigation goals. The complexity of such initiatives – involving regulatory, technological, financial, and governance issues – demands ways to integrate technical expertise, local cultural and environmental characteristics, and other relevant factors into development processes. This article reflects on a transdisciplinary project that investigated how renewable energy could be implemented to meet the needs and aspirations of rural and remote Indonesian communities. We discuss the sustainability science approach taken and how the transdisciplinary methodology was applied. The article addresses themes of language and communication, methods of knowledge production, legitimacy, planning and time management, and the role and impacts of social and technical disciplines in the research. The paper highlights specific challenges in these areas, and appropriate strategies to mitigate them. Our conclusions propose useful principles for this type of transdisciplinary work: preparation, common understandings, flexibility, shared responsibility, respect, and lightheartedness and humour. The manuscript identifies important empirical and methodological future research priorities, and offers insights to inform social research dimensions of applied research methods in the context of complex development initiatives and the multi-scale socio-economic and political systems in which they take place.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-194
Number of pages11
JournalEnergy Research & Social Science
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


  • Community renewable energy
  • Sustainable development
  • Transdisciplinarity

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