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. 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. Rai serves on the editorial boards of The Electricity Journal and Energy Research & Social Science, for which he is also an associate editor. He 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." As of Jan. 1, 2019, Rai is the new director of the Energy Institute at The University of Texas at Austin.

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


NewsJune 28, 2019
LBJ Associate Dean Varun Rai named a 2019 Young Alumni Achiever by IIT Kharagpur

Dr. Varun Rai, associate dean for research at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and director of the Energy Institute at The University of Texas at Austin, has been honored with a 2019 Young Alumni Achiever Award by the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur (IIT). The award recognizes alumni age 40 and under for their creativity, innovation and success in their chosen fields of study and work.

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NewsJune 12, 2019
Rural entrepreneurship in Texas gets boost from UT Austin research projects

Four LBJ School faculty members are exploring entrepreneurship in Texas's rural areas and small cities around the world in a new initiative funded by the IC2 Institute at The University of Texas at Austin. Researchers in a variety of new IC2 projects will look at ways to promote economic development — including tracking regional entrepreneurship, promoting rural innovation networks and building economic resilience in areas where employment fluctuates with the cycles of the energy industry.

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Media MentionJune 1, 2019
At the Helm: Varun Rai examines the social, institutional, economic and technological components of energy systems

Dr. Varun Rai, associate dean for research at the LBJ School and director of the Energy Institute at The University of Texas at Austin, talks with Span Magazine about his work at the Energy Institute. 

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