Journal Articles

India’s state-led electricity transition: A review of techno-economic, socio-technical and political perspectives

Parth Bhatia

Energy Research & Social Science

July 17, 2023

India’s electricity sector is in the midst of a transition that will have immense consequences for its own development and for global decarbonisation efforts. Sustainability transitions scholars have highlighted the importance of integrating insights from multiple disciplinary perspectives to holistically understand national energy transitions. This search-based narrative review assesses the academic and policy literature on India’s electricity sector transition from January 2011 to October 2022 and synthesizes it along three broad perspectives identified by Cherp et al. – techno-economic, political, socio-technical – and a fourth cross-cutting perspective ‘justice’. It finds that India’s electricity transition is state-led, with the state modulating the pace of the transition through its pro-renewables policies and its control over energy resources, assets and incumbents. India’s national innovation systems is weak, leaving the state in-charge of stimulating transitions in line with its developmental objectives. While the policy-mix has successfully driven renewable energy deployment, it has been unable to stimulate manufacturing. A complete shift away from coal is likely to take multiple decades due to a young thermal fleet, multi-layered political lock-ins beyond jobs, demand-side uncertainties, and practical challenges with grid integration. Finally, it identifies six cross-cutting research gaps relating to (1) the role of the state (2) incumbents and non-state actors (3) green industrial policy (4) core political constituencies and institutional systems (5) economic diversification and social protection and (6) India’s development pathway.

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