LBJ School professor receives top honor for contributions to public policy and social science | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin

The Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) announced Wednesday the recipient of the David N. Kershaw Award and Prize, which honors individuals under the age of 40 who have made a distinguished contribution to the field of public policy analysis and management. Varun Rai, an associate professor of public affairs at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, is the recipient of this year’s award.

Rai is an energy policy scholar who focuses on the diffusion of clean energy technologies. His interdisciplinary work at the intersection of energy systems, complex systems, decision science and public policy has contributed to developing a holistic understanding of the drivers of technology diffusion, with a focus on sustainable energy technologies. By analyzing interactions among the underlying social, behavioral, economic, technological and institutional components of the energy system, Rai’s work has informed the design of more effective policies, regulation and market approaches for enabling the necessary transition to a sustainable global energy system.

“It is a great honor to receive the Kershaw Award, and I am deeply humbled by it,” Rai said. “It is very satisfying to see my work being recognized as having made meaningful contributions to public policy analysis and management. I feel indebted to my parents, family and friends, and to my colleagues, teachers and students who have been a truly integral part of my scholarly journey all along. This award is a testament to the value of interdisciplinary research in public policy analysis and management.”

“Varun has a stellar public policy analysis research record and agenda. This puts him at the cutting edge of the next generation of thinkers shaping innovative public policies. His selection strongly reflects on David Kershaw’s academic life,” said LBJ School Dean Angela Evans. “Varun is a proven young scholar who is already recognized as a major leader in the field. We are proud of Varun’s accomplishments, and he is most deserving of this distinguished honor.”

“On behalf of the award selection committee, I am proud to recognize Dr. Rai, who has made a path-breaking contribution to the field of energy policy as both a researcher and a practitioner,” stated Paul Decker, CEO of Mathematica Policy Research. “His work, which combines technological, scientific, and behavioral perspectives to generate important insights about the adoption of clean energy technologies, make him an ideal recipient of the 2016 Kershaw Award.” 

Rai’s academic research and policy development have made a considerable impact on both the local and national levels. While Rai served as Commissioner in the Electric Utility Commission (EUC) for Austin Energy from 2013 – 2015, he was influential in making the Austin Energy market more competitive and for making solar more accessible to a broader section of Austin’s population. During his time as Commissioner, Rai was also instrumental in helping set the national standard for cost-effective renewable energy generation. 

The David N. Kershaw Award is offered every other year only if a suitable recipient is identified. The award consists of a commemorative medal and a cash prize of $10,000. The prize is among the largest awards made to recognize significant impact to public policy. Rai, the 18th recipient of the award, will give a featured presentation during the 2016 Fall Research Conference on Friday, November 4. 

View APPAM's release here.