Niches, narratives, and national policy: How India developed off-grid solar for rural electrification

Sushil Rajagopalan, Hanna L. Breetz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Decentralized renewables are critical for rural electrification in many countries in the Global South. As a case study of the development of decentralized renewables, we trace the evolution of India's off-grid solar sector from 1980 through 2020. We apply the Multi-Level Perspective (MLP) to highlight interactions across three levels of actors, with additional attention to how their actions were shaped by evolving policy narratives. We find that the national government initiated the development of off-grid solar in the early 1980s due to concerns about energy security and rural poverty. The sector was then supported by international agencies focused on sustainable development, and more recently non-state players and private enterprise emerged as the innovators. This case study makes two more general contributions to the MLP literature. Empirically, it shows how regime actors can deliberately create niches. Theoretically, it shows how narrative analysis can be integrated into the MLP to shed light on the dynamics of energy transitions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-54
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Innovation and Societal Transitions
StatePublished - Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • India
  • Multi-level perspective
  • Narrative analysis
  • Off-grid Solar
  • Rural electrification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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