Energy Transition Injustices: Who Is Solar Energy for in India?

Authors: Heather Bedi*, Dickinson College
Topics: Energy, Environment, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: energy transition, energy justice, India, solar energy, uneven development
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 37
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change indicates dire consequences if the world continues the use of fossil fuels that powered past industrialization. Climate scientists and policymakers eagerly follow India’s energy trajectory, as the country is the world’s third largest primary consumer of energy. Simultaneously, India is one of the most vulnerable nations to climatic change, with an increased number of hot days and more frequent and intense precipitation. The Indian government advocates for a major shift from national reliance on coal to more renewable energy sources. While these aspirations are laudable, a political ecology review reveals that the energy transition has not been just for all Indians and does not provide opportunities for residents to engage in decisions about their energy futures. Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork and a policy review, this research traces how the Indian government addresses planning for energy infrastructure and development projects in silos, with planners and policymakers lacking incentives or inspiration to address these interconnected issues in tandem. This disconnected approach builds from and exacerbates historical political and resource inequalities, particularly among those most at risk to climatic change and, or land and resource dispossession. It further enables the persistence of social and environmental marginalization, even while moving towards a lower carbon future. India may undergo an energy transition, but it will not be a just energy transition without significant changes.

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