The Davidson Lab focuses on the engineering implications and institutional conflicts inherent in deploying low-carbon energy at scale. We have particular interests in understanding the political systems of Asia (with a focus on China and India) as well as the western U.S. Our research topics include renewable resource assessments, power system operations, and political economy of markets:

Research topics

We are recruiting PhD and MS students to join the lab: Please see the academic programs and mentoring opportunities page for more information.

Prof. Davidson is an assistant professor in the School of Global Policy and Strategy and the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at the University of California, San Diego. He is a faculty member with the 21st Century China Center the Center for Commerce and Diplomacy, and the Japan Forum for Innovation and Technology, all located at UC San Diego. He is currently a fellow with the Public Intellectuals Program at the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. He is also a fellow with the Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy at Johns Hopkins SAIS. Read more here.


Static Electricity: Institutional and Ideational Barriers to China’s Market Reforms

Davidson, M. R., Pearson, M. M. Studies in Comparative International Development.

China’s “economic juggernaut” is often noted to have arisen from successful market reforms carried out in the context of high state capacity. In contrast, we demonstrate that crucial reforms to replace central planning with markets have stalled as a result of major barriers of two types: institutional and ideational. Focusing... [Read More]

The Challenges of Coal Phaseout: Coal Plant Development and Foreign Finance in Indonesia and Vietnam

Gao, X., Davidson, M., Busby, J., Shearer, C., Eisenman, J. Global Environmental Politics.

Global coal use must be phased out if we are to minimize temperature increases associated with climate change. Most new coal plants are being built in the Asia Pacific and rely on overseas finance, with Indonesia and Vietnam the leading recipients. However, the politics of coal plant finance are changing,... [Read More]

Policies and Institutions to Support Carbon Neutrality in China by 2060

Davidson, M., Karplus, V. J., Zhang, D., & Zhang, X. Economics of Energy & Environmental Policy.

China’s leadership has announced its aim to achieve carbon neutrality at the national level by 2060. Recent statements clarify that the country’s pledge applies to all greenhouse gases. This review examines the extent to which current policies and institutions would need to evolve to support deep decarbonization in the world’s... [Read More]

Lab Members Present Research at Undergraduate Research Symposia

Topics include renewable energy resource mapping, energy equity, and the politics of regionalized power systems

Lab members – Arjun Sawhney, Justin Lu, Rambo Shi, Jeffrey Feng, Isac Lee, Ananya Thridandam, and Johnny Nguyen – presented their research at the Undergraduate Research Conference and the Online Undergraduate Research Symposium this month at UC San Diego. Topics ranged from renewable energy siting and state-level politics of renewable... [Read More]

China Trading Power: Improving Environmental and Economic Efficiency of Yunnan’s Electricity Market

Liu, Shuangquan and Michael Davidson. (2021). Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

China’s electricity sector is key to addressing many of the country’s most pressing public policy challenges, from mitigating climate change and local environmental pollution to providing affordable inputs to economic growth. Over the last three decades, numerous reforms have sought to increase efficiency in the sector, yet full-fledged electricity markets... [Read More]

The impact of COVID-19 on the power sector in Karnataka, India

Iychettira, K., Hou, X., Davidson, M., & Urpelainen, J. (2020). Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy.

This brief analyzes the impact of COVID-19 on the power sector in the State of Karnataka, India. We explore demand scenarios across a range of severities of the COVID shock as well as other exogenous factors—namely, agricultural demand, hydro generation, and power market prices—and assess their impacts on discom revenue... [Read More]

Power market reform in China: Motivations, progress, and recommendations

Guo, H., Davidson, M. R., Chen, Q., Zhang, D., Jiang, N., Xia, Q., Kang, C., and Zhang, X. (2020). Energy Policy

China’s electricity demand has grown rapidly over only two decades and is currently the largest in the world. This was largely owing to a framework of regulation in which governments regulated prices and quantities, and there was ample incentive for investment. As the growth in electricity demand has slowed and... [Read More]