Rai, Varun | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin
  • Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University, 2008
  • M.S. in Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University, 2004
  • B.Tech. in Mechanical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur, 2002
Research Areas
  • Energy Systems
  • Climate Change Mitigation
  • Energy and Development
Teaching Areas
  • Research and Empirical Methods
  • Environmental and Energy Policy
  • Information and Technology Policy

Varun Rai is an associate professor in the LBJ School of Public Affairs, where he directs the Energy Systems Transformation Research Group, and in the Mechanical Engineering department. His interdisciplinary research at the interface of energy systems, behavioral sciences, complex systems and public policy focuses on enabling a broad diffusion of sustainable energy technologies globally. Dr. Rai has published numerous journal articles, including in Applied Energy, Energy Policy, Energy Research & Social Science, Environmental Research Letters, Global Environmental Change, Nature Climate Change and PLOS ONE.

His research has been presented at several important forums, including the United States Senate Briefings, Global Economic Symposium and Climate One at Commonwealth Club, and has been discussed in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Bloomberg News, among other venues. He serves on the editorial boards of The Electricity Journal and Energy Research & Social Science, for which he is also an associate editor. Dr. Rai was a Global Economic Fellow in 2009 and, during 2013–15, he was a commissioner for the vertically integrated electric utility Austin Energy (~$1.4 billion revenue in 2015). In 2016 the Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management (APPAM) awarded him the David N. Kershaw Award and Prize, which "was established to honor persons who, at under the age of 40, have made a distinguished contribution to the field of public policy analysis and management." Dr. Rai is the director of the Energy Institute at The University of Texas at Austin.

Courses Taught
Media Expertise
  • Energy Policy
  • Energy Water Nexus
  • Technological change
  • Environmental Policy
  • Climate change
  • Energy
  • Environment


NewsSeptember 22, 2020
When missions align, community-based organizations can lead the way on community solar in Texas, new study finds

"This roadmap represents a promising deployment strategy for solar in Texas." —Varun Rai, LBJ School

(Texas)­ — Affordable solar energy can create significant benefits to energy consumers, but Texas is behind the nation in bringing these benefits to all energy consumers. Community-based organizations can help lead the way, according to a new roadmap for community solar in Texas from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.

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Media MentionAugust 6, 2020
Texas regulators want oil companies 'flaring' less gas

Oil wells in Texas produce a lot of excess natural gas, and the Texas Railroad Commission, the group that regulates oil and gas in that state, said Tuesday it's implementing changes in the hopes of reducing the amount that gets burned off in a process called flaring. LBJ's Varun Rai talks about methods of data collection to monitor the practice of flaring natural gas.

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NewsJune 9, 2020
LBJ faculty lauded for achievements during 2019–20 academic year

While this past academic year saw some remarkable changes in the academic process, the continued excellence of LBJ School faculty remained constant. Here is a collection of the recognition that LBJ faculty garnered in 2019–20.

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