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Johannes Urpelainen

Director and Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Professor of Energy, Resources and Environment

Founding Director, Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy (ISEP)


Johannes Urpelainen is the Director and Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Professor of Energy, Resources and Environment at Johns Hopkins SAIS and the Founding Director of the Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy (ISEP). He received his PhD in Political Science from the University of Michigan in 2009 and spent the next eight years at Columbia University.

Johannes is the award-winning author of four books and over a hundred refereed articles on environmental politics, energy policy, and global governance. He teaches action-oriented classes on energy and environmental policy to equip the next generation of global leaders with deep knowledge, advanced analytical skills — and a passion for transformational social change. As one of the world’s top energy policy experts, Johannes frequently advises governments, international organizations, and the private sector on energy and environment.

As the Founding Director of ISEP, Johannes is responsible for the vision, strategy, and general management of the initiative. His work under ISEP offers pragmatic but effective approaches to providing the world’s population with affordable and abundant energy at minimal environmental impact. In his spare time, Johannes reads biographies and tries to improve his Hindi.

Co-Written Books

Urpelainen, J. (2018) Escaping the Energy Poverty Trap: When and How Governments Power the Lives of the Poor. Cambridge: MIT Press

Urpelainen, J. (2018) Renewables: The Politics of a Global Energy Transition. Cambridge: MIT Press

Urpelainen, J. (2018) Activism and the Fossil Fuel Industry. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

Urpelainen, J. (2018) Organizing Democracy: How International Organizations Assist New Democracies. Chicago: Chicago University Press

Urpelainen, J. (2014) Cutting the Gordian Knot of Economic Reform: When and How International Institutions Help. New York: Oxford University Press

Article Highlights

The Broad Impact of a Narrow Conflict: How Natural Resource Windfalls Shape Policy and Politics. 2018. Journal of Politics 80 (2): 630-646. [With Jasper Cooper and Sung Eun Kim]

Does Basic Energy Access Generate Socio-Economic Benefits? A Field Experiment with Off-Grid Solar Power in India. 2017. Science Advances 3: e1602153. [With Michaël Aklin, Patrick Bayer, and S.P. Harish]

Factors Affecting Household Satisfaction with Electricity Supply in Rural India. 2016.
Nature Energy 1: 16048. [With Michaël Aklin, Chao-yo Cheng, Karthik Ganesan, and Abhishek Jain]

It’s All About Political Incentives: Democracy and the Renewable Feed-In Tariff. 2016.
Journal of Politics 78 (2): 603-619. [With Patrick Bayer]

Instruments of Political Control: National Oil Companies, Oil Prices, and Petroleum Subsidies. 2015. Comparative Political Studies 48 (3): 370-402. [With Andrew Cheon and Maureen Lackner]

International Bureaucrats and the Formation of Intergovernmental Organizations: Institutional Design Discretion Sweetens the Pot. 2014. International Organization 68 (1): 177-209. [With Tana Johnson]

Political Competition, Path Dependence, and the Strategy of Sustainable Energy Transitions. 2013. American Journal of Political Science: 57 (3): 643-658. [With Michaël Aklin]

A Strategic Theory of Regime Integration and Separation. 2012. International Organization 66 (4): 645-677. [With Tana Johnson]



  • India
  • South Asia


  • Emerging Economies
  • Energy Access
  • Global Environmental Politics
  • Political Economy
  • Sustainable Energy

In the News

Fossil fuels: Save the workers, kill the industry

Johannes Urpelainen wrote in The Hill, 4/30

Why the coronavirus response seems so outsized.

Johannes Urpelainen cited in The Washington Post, 3/10

A preview of key energy challenges for the 2020s.

Johannes Urpelainen quoted in Forbes, 3/2

Lecture: "Climate Change and the Global Order"

Johannes Urpelainen highlighted in Frederick News-Post, 1/16

Translating research to policy.

Johannes Urpelainen interviewed on Public Health United podcast, 9/19

The mess in the power sector needs to be addressed.

Johannes Urpelainen cited in The Telegraph, 9/17

Mid-century strategies: Pathways to a low-carbon future?

Johannes Urpelainen wrote in Climate Policy, 7/10

Is the International Energy Agency biased in favor of fossil fuels?

Johannes Urpelainen wrote for Energy Central, 4/17

A power line to every home: India closes in on universal electrification.

Johannes Urpelainen quoted in IEEE Spectrum, 3/20

Connecting people to the grid in India isn't enough.

Johannes Urpelainen cited in Forbes, 2/27