Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis


Best Senior Thesis in Environment, Economics, and Politics

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Environment, Economics, and Politics (EEP)

Reader 1

Professor Aseema Sinha


Providing energy security and diversifying the energy production in India align with the country’s rising power ambitions and policy goals to industrialize. Renewable energy provides a useful tool for the state to meet these policy goals without producing more air pollution and additional environmental degradation. The Central Government has international ambitions of with becoming a rising responsible power; these aspirations have created new resources, incentives, and policy ideas for the subnational states in India. The purpose of this thesis is to map out the motivations, interests, and incentives of subnational elites in devising policies to promote renewable energy development in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Gujarat, and Rajasthan. I develop an analytical framework based on four variables: 1) state-level party politics, 2) financial space/ indebtedness of state distribution companies, 3) institutional knowledge in state-level nodal renewable energy agencies, and 4) state-level linkages with the private sector to examine different modes of vertical alignment that subnational actors employ to develop renewable energy policies. I find that environmental concerns weren’t the primary driver of renewable energy development; instead, environmental benefits were an unintended outcome of private sector actors and state elites coordinating with the Central Government to address the pressing needs of ensuring reliable energy for industry leaders. In particular, Kerala demonstrates that even when active environmental movements and popular support exists for renewable energy, unless there are active private sector linkages, renewable energy development will remain slow. These findings may be very helpful for central government officials in India and state-level bureaucrats trying to devise climate change mitigation policies on the subnational level. Moreover, international climate change negotiators could use these findings to engage with India more to accelerate renewable energy development to slow anthropogenic climate change.