Beyond technical smartness: rethinking the development and implementation of sociotechnical smart grids in India

A. Kumar (Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
98 Downloads (Pure)


How smart grids are understood and defined will influence the kinds of smart grids users will encounter in the future and their potential impacts. Practitioners and policymakers largely perceive smart grids as technological interventions. However, a number of social, financial and governmental interventions can also make grids smart, i.e., more efficient, more responsive, more inclusive and more robust. Drawing on qualitative research done using elite interviews, site visits and document analysis of eight micro-grids in India, this paper provides concrete examples of what could be understood as social, financial and governmental smartness, and in doing so, broadens the knowledge on smart grids beyond the technical understanding.
This paper argues that social, financial and governmental interventions are central to ‘smartness’, and that multifaceted and relational sociotechnical approaches will build cheaper, just, more democratic and sustainable smart grids. The paper observes that smart grids are not conceived as smart grids but rather develop incrementally. An incremental approach, rather than pushing a premeditated set of ideas and technologies, reduces adoption of non-contextual interventions as well as unnecessary investments in new technologies. The paper recommends that policymakers and practitioners should understand and develop smart grids as sociotechnical and incremental grids.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-168
Number of pages11
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


  • smart grid
  • energy access
  • Socio-technical
  • incrementalism
  • India
  • social smartness
  • financial smartess
  • micro-grid
  • energy justice
  • energy equity
  • socio-cultural
  • Energy access
  • Smart grid
  • Sociotechnical
  • Incrementalism

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