The Global Network on Energy for Sustainable Development (GNESD) was an initiative launched at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development to support the agenda for increased access to clean energy, as a key contribution to sustainable development. In addition to understanding how the Network was established, how it sustained its relations and organised its activities across borders, we contribute to the debate on global networks by introducing the concept of ‘outcomes’, as a means to understand the extent to which, and how, the Network was able to influence change within the participating countries. We conclude from the analysis that although there are numerous observable and verifiable outcomes, these were achieved in a rather unsystematic manner especially during the early years, and in a more structured and targeted manner during the last 5 years of the Network. To a great extent this reflects the output-focus that was prevalent within UNEP, and other similar organisations, at the time the Network was established. It also reflects the well-known structural challenge faced by many epistemic communities, where the extent of their influence reflects the extent to which they are embedded within evolving power structures. Finally, we offer a number of specific recommendations for future networks, based on the GNESD experience.