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Accepted paper:

'Power and politics in sustainable urban energy governance in India'


Sumedha Basu (University of Warwick)

Paper short abstract:

The emergence of devolved governance of low carbon energy challenges the hegemony of conventional energy sector. The paper analyses actions in three cities in India through the lens of power and governmentality to understand role of Indian cities in its low carbon energy transition.

Paper long abstract:

The shift in global attention towards urban clean energy implementation engenders involvement of new actors, technologies and strategies, ushering 'decentralised dynamics' and reconfiguring political authority. Given this context, the urban becomes a 'political arena' where friction over visions and values of transition, decision making, and mode of implementation are bound to arise.

To explain actions and inactions of cities, literature has frequently delved into the different factors that influence governance like technical and financial capacities, autonomy and coordination. I argue that there is a need to explore the understandings of political power to explain urban scale and speed of energy transitions, especially in a multi-level governance context. Governance when viewed as 'orchestration of distinct modes of power' can foreground these deeper mechanisms that shape the grounds and rationalities of decision making. Further, Governmentality studies have showcased how governance can be achieved from a distance where acquiescence of different actors and norms of the possible and impossible can establish the 'conduct of conduct'.

Taking a comparative case study approach, I study three cities of India to understand sustainable energy decision-making using the lens of political power. I build an analytical framework drawing from the scholarships of urban energy and climate governance and wider critical urban governance literature. Based on interviews and documents analysis across the three cities, I apply this framework to understand clean energy implementation in cities. The framework attempts to capture both direct and indirect forms of power, their operationalisation and manifestation on the conditionalities of decision-making.

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Collaborations in Research on Low Carbon Energy