Centre for Climate and Energy Transformation (CET)
CET Virtual & Physical Lunch Seminar

The Descent of Coal? India’s solar energy ambitions and its governance in Rajasthan

Welcome to our lunch seminar with Shayan Shokrgozar, PhD candidate at CET and the ASSET project.

Bhadla Solar Park
The Bhadla Solar Park in Rajasthan, India.
Modified Copernicus Sentinel data 2020: 2020-05-20, Sentinel-2A L1C, True color

Main content

Since the Industrial Revolution, human activity through energy mobilization has grown into of the main drivers of global environmental change, destabilizing the relatively stable conditions of the Holocene. These circumstances have led to calls by the private and public sectors for transitioning from conventional energy sources, such as coal, to lower-carbon energy infrastructures, such as solar energy to mitigate anthropogenic climate change.

Amid these developments, India has ambitious lower-carbon energy capacity expansion goals, with prime minister Modi announcing at COP 26 that it seeks to implement an ambitious 500 GW by 2030 (up from a previous goal of 300 GW).

In practice, the implementation of lower-carbon energy infrastructures has primarily been conducted through large-scale projects by the private sector who have access to large credits. One such implementation is the Bhadla solar “park” in Rajasthan, the largest of its kind in the world. Policies have also been implemented in a way to allow for easier appropriation of land for large-scale projects, without comparable incentives for small to medium scale projects, leading to a competitive disadvantage.

These variables have led to a “scalar bias” in which legal-regulatory and political-economic conditions lead to the structural favourability of utility-scale projects over local and community-scale projects. Some advocates of energy justice have described this trend as a missed opportunity in allowing for configurations that offer communities the most power for self-determination – due to there not being opportunities for the local population to be involved in determining their energy future.

With this in mind, Shayan will describe their Ph.D. project pertaining to the governance of solar energy transitions in the state of Rajasthan in Western India. More specifically an effort to study the bridging concepts of institutional, accountability, and socio-material shifts since the liberalization of the electricity sector in 2003. They aim to identify and inform pathways for implementation in publicly accountable ways, while critically evaluating the logic under which infrastructural development is carried out.

Furthermore, in their talk, Shayan will describe the current socio-political dynamics in the implementation of solar energy in Rajasthan. Some of the topics discussed will consist of the commodification of the necessary implements of a modern life and some of the alternative efforts that are being carried out to reverse this trend, through the use of convivial energy technologies.

About the speaker:

Shayan Shokrgozar is a Ph.D. research fellow at the Centre for Climate and Energy Transformation at the University of Bergen. Their research is part of the ASSET project and consists of studying the governance of solar energy in the state of Rajasthan in India and its implications for the lived experiences of the citizenry. Prior to joining CET, Shayan completed their MPhil at the Centre for Development and the Environment (SUM) at the University of Oslo, writing their thesis on the Implications of wind energy infrastructures for lived experiences in Saepmi.