Mapping Power: The Political Economy of Electricity in India's States.

AuthorIychettira, Kaveri

Mapping Power: The Political Economy of Electricity in India's States, edited by Navroz K. Dubash, Sunila S. Kale, Ranjit Bharvirkar. (Oxford University Press, 2018) 400 pages, ISBN 978-019-948-7820

The social sciences do not inform the discipline of energy studies nearly as much as they could, and indeed should (Sovacool 2014). The dominant school of thought in this discipline, driven by tenets of neo-classical economics, provides few solutions to the issues plaguing affordable electricity access in the developing world. Over multiple decades, the "standard liberalization prescription" (Joskow 2004) has been found to be limited in its value, particularly to developing countries such as India (Jamasb et al. 2005).

This book provides convincing evidence that the social sciences and politics matter. It brings to the fore that conviction by way of gathering rich empirical evidence both on electricity reform efforts and political developments, from a diverse set of fifteen states in India. The focus on states contributes to bridging a crucial gap that exists in literature today, as most existing studies on India's electricity sector address the country level. Furthermore, this work is a vital contribution towards not just informing India's policy pathways, but also towards a methodological blueprint to understand the levers that drive electricity sector development across much of the developing world.

Summary: Framework and Analysis

The stated aim of the book is to understand the relationship of politics to electricity outcomes. The rich empirically-grounded analysis that this volume contains helps, as the editors note, to move beyond establishing that politics matters, to how politics matters. At the outset, their state-level analyses are motivated by the question: To what extent has the design and application of reforms addressed the particular politics of each state's electricity sector? Based on preliminary work, the editors identify four politically salient categories that are crucial in their analysis of the success of reform measures.

* Demand for access and service quality

* Demand for subsidies

* Cost of supply

* Financial space (a term they coin to describe an amalgam of factors that determine financial management of political demands in a state)

The first two factors represent political demands placed on the system, and the last two represent levers of the states to manage those political demands. Interactions between the politically salient factors mentioned above, and reform measures such as introducing regulators, privatization, and renewable-purchase obligations, are informed by and analyzed within the larger context of the state's political economy, under the premise that...

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