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 a 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 former 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


Media MentionApril 4, 2022
Longevity Partners appoints two department heads to build and train workforce in push toward U.S. decarbonization
Longevity Partners, one of the world's fastest-growing ESG advisory businesses, just announced the appointment of two new department heads in the U.S. to support the firm's rapid expansion stateside. Dr. Molly Polk is now Head of ESG Strategy USA and Dr. Varun Rai is now Head of Net Zero Carbon USA. Since opening its U.S. headquarters in Austin just over a year ago, Longevity's U.S. workforce has more than tripled with the goal of growing to 50 people by 2023.
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NewsMarch 14, 2022
Essential workers faced higher risk of infection and hospitalization during pandemic lockdown

Essential workers, low-income earners and people living in dense environments faced higher risk of COVID-19 infection and hospitalization, even amid COVID-19 shelter-in-place policies, according to a new study from public policy researchers at The University of Texas at Austin. The study, appearing in Plos One, showed that these individuals faced more challenges to comply with pandemic lockdowns.

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NewsJune 17, 2021
Texas winter blackout analysis sheds light on ERCOT's summer warnings

The recent Texas freeze left more than 10 million people without electricity at its peak, some for several days, and economic losses from lost output and damage are estimated to be as high as $130 billion in Texas alone. Now, high summer temperatures and drought-induced water limitations for cooling have forced the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) to issue a warning to Texas to reduce electricity use through the rest of the week.

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