Solar energy represents a fossil fuel alternative to meet India’s rising energy demand. Large mega-watt solar projects require contiguous land, which is sparse in the South Indian state of Kerala. Drawing from ethnographic research in Kerala, this paper traces the role that solar infrastructure plays in making and unmaking land and lives in pursuit of light. Government officials promoted the Kasaragod solar park and associated green corridor transmission line as climate-friendly infrastructure development for the energy deficit state. Select government officials encouraged solar projects as the renewable resource would help, “lead the district into the light.” Although the energy infrastructure promoters promised development benefits for local stakeholders, Adivasis (indigenous peoples) without legal land titles and others opposed the acquisition of their land for the solar project. The Kasaragod Solar Park exemplifies how national climate goals for renewable energy and empty infrastructure pledges translated into the reification of land unevenness, with particularly profound implications for Adivasis. This reproduction of socio-environmental injustices did not go unchallenged. Local political opposition significantly reduced the 200 Megawatt (MW) solar park to 50 MW, but not before some Adivasis and others without land titles lost their land and livelihoods. This case illustrates how the completion of renewable energy infrastructure to meet national and state climate goals may hinge on the assertion of local political power to thwart or promote large-scale projects. Efforts to pursue ambitious national renewable energy infrastructure goals without recognition of historical land and development unevenness may hinder India’s capacity to pursue renewable energy transition goals.
Bedi, Heather P. "'Lead the District into the Light": Solar Energy Infrastructure Injustices in Kerala, India." Global Transitions 1 (2019): 181-189. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2589791819300180