As EPIC expands the breadth and reach of its efforts in India and China, it is adding new leadership to its regional teams. Harris Public Policy Assistant Professor Fiona Burlig is joining EPIC Director Michael Greenstone as the new deputy faculty director of EPIC-India, while Harris Public Policy Assistant Professor Shaoda Wang joins Greenstone as the new deputy faculty director of EPIC-China. The additional leadership will broaden the scope of research and bring additional capacity to build new projects, programming and partnerships on the ground in two countries central to confronting the global energy challenge.
“China and India are two of the world’s most dynamic and rapidly evolving economies, with economic growth raising living standards for many hundreds of millions of people—a massive success story. But both nations are also home to some of the world’s most complex and far-reaching energy and environmental challenges that requires them to balance the need for inexpensive and reliable energy with local environmental challenges and with avoiding disruptive climate change,” says Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics at the University of Chicago. “Fiona and Shaoda’s exceptional intellectual leadership will heighten our ability to deliver new insights critical to understanding and helping to confront the global energy challenge. Their research in India and China has already produced groundbreaking results, and so we’re thrilled to have them on board in a full leadership capacity to build on their work in new and innovative ways.”
Fiona Burlig studies energy and environmental economics, with a focus on the developing world. Her ongoing research examines the impacts of rural electrification in India and the design of developing-country electricity markets. One recent study explores the impact of rural electrification, finding that electrification does not generate benefits in small villages, but has substantial potential in larger villages across India. Another study explores the continued prevalence of blackouts in developing countries like India, showing that the lack of financial trading in the power market contributes to load shedding. Burlig holds a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley and a BA from Williams College.
“India is at the center of the world’s energy challenges, and its power sector plays a critical role,” says Burlig. “I’m really excited to continue finding ways to improve our understanding of electricity markets in India. EPIC-India already has a fantastic team who have formed the strong partnerships vital for understanding the needs and opportunities on the ground; I am looking forward to bringing more UChicago faculty into the fold to build on this work.”
Shaoda Wang’s research centers on understanding the political economy of public policy, particularly in China. In one study, Wang finds that facing political pressures to improve surface water quality, local officials enforce tighter regulations on polluters the central government can track while shirking on their responsibility to reduce pollution coming from firms not tracked. In another study, he discovers that when citizens use social media to point out pollution violations, it forces accountability and leads to reduced pollution—providing the first experimental evidence on bottom-up participation in environmental governance that is common worldwide. Wang holds a BA from Peking University and a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley.
“After observing firsthand China’s significant pollution problems and the government’s heavy-handed response, I became interested in better understanding how policymakers, industry and citizens interacted and how this interaction influences policy,” says Wang. “I’m looking forward to expanding this research interest, including by fostering new faculty projects with my colleagues at Harris, and working to further collaborations inside China to improve our understanding of energy and environmental policy opportunities in the country.”