Solar Power for Some? Energy Transition Injustices in Kerala, India

Document Type


Publication Date



Environmental Studies



Publication Title

Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space


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 the uneven power relations associated with the introduction of renewable energy in the southern Indian state of Kerala. Drawing from fieldwork, research traces how Kerala government solar projects, including schemes to promote rooftop solar, prioritize middle- and upper-class consumers. Historically marginalized communities, including people living below the poverty level and Adivasis (indigenous peoples), are not a priority for the state agency implementing renewable energy and thus are not beneficiaries of cleaner energy. This disconnected approach builds from and exacerbates historical political and resource inequalities and enables the persistence of social and environmental injustices, even while moving towards a lower-carbon future. This model does not allow for all residents to actively engage in decision-making about energy processes and proves to be a missed opportunity to think holistically about development and energy in tandem. Energy democracy provides ideas to disturb this uneven power structure, with cooperatives being one possible way to implement this change. As the case of Kerala underscores, India may undergo an energy transition, but it will not be a just energy transition without significant changes.


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