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Photo of Rai, Varun
Office Location: SRH 3.232

Varun Rai

Associate Dean for Research, Professor

Walt and Elspeth Rostow Chair in National Security

Dr. Varun Rai is a Professor in the LBJ School of Public Affairs and in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, where he directs the Energy Systems Transformation Research Group (aka “Rai Group”). His interdisciplinary research – delving with issues at the interface of energy systems, complex systems, decision science, and public policy – focuses on studying how the interactions between the underlying social, behavioral, economic, technological, and institutional components of the energy system impact the diffusion of energy technologies. Over the last 15 years, his research has applied various analytical lenses to study technologies and policies in carbon capture and storage (CCS), fuels cells, oil & gas, plug-in hybrid vehicles (PEVs), and solar photovoltaics (PV). He has presented at several important forums, including the United States Senate Briefings, Global Intelligent Utility Network Coalition, and Global Economic Symposium, and his research group’s work has been discussed in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Bloomberg News, among other venues. He was a Global Economic Fellow in 2009 and holds the Elspeth Rostow Centennial Fellowship at the LBJ School. During 2013-2015 he was a Commissioner for the vertically-integrated electric utility Austin Energy. 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.” He received The Eyes of Texas Excellence Award, also in 2016, for making “noteworthy contributions to the UT community.” Dr. Rai has held the position of the Associate Dean for Research for the LBJ School since September 2017. He received his Ph.D. and MS in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University and a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur.


Selected Publications
  1. Retail Competition, Advanced Metering Investments, and Product Differentiation: Evidence from Texas
  2. Diffusion of environmentally-friendly energy technologies: Buy vs. lease differences in residential PV markets
  3. Effective information channels for reducing costs of environmentally-friendly technologies: Evidence from residential PV markets
  4. Expert elicitation methods for studying technological change under uncertainty
  5. Solar valuation and the modern utility's expansion into distributed generation