Renewables: The Politics of a Global Energy Transition

Renewables: The Politics of a Global Energy Transition

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Overview

A comprehensive political analysis of the rapid growth in renewable wind and solar power, mapping an energy transition through theory, case studies, and policy.

Wind and solar are the most dynamic components of the global power sector. How did this happen? After the 1973 oil crisis, the limitations of an energy system based on fossil fuels created an urgent need to experiment with alternatives, and some pioneering governments reaped political gains by investing heavily in alternative energy such as wind or solar power. Public policy enabled growth over time, and economies of scale brought down costs dramatically. In this book, Michaël Aklin and Johannes Urpelainen offer a comprehensive political analysis of the rapid growth in renewable wind and solar power, mapping an energy transition through theory, case studies, and policy analysis.

Aklin and Urpelainen argue that, because the fossil fuel energy system and political support for it are so entrenched, only an external shock—an abrupt rise in oil prices, or a nuclear power accident, for example—allows renewable energy to grow. They analyze the key factors that enable renewable energy to withstand political backlash, andt they draw on this analyisis to explain and predict the development of renewable energy in different countries over time. They examine the pioneering efforts in the United States, Germany, and Denmark after the 1973 oil crisis and other shocks; explain why the United States surrendered its leadership role in renewable energy; and trace the recent rapid growth of modern renewables in electricity generation, describing, among other things, the return of wind and solar to the United States. Finally, they apply the lessons of their analysis to contemporary energy policy issues.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262534949
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 03/23/2018
Series: The MIT Press
Pages: 344
Sales rank: 641,565
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Michaël Aklin is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh, and coauthor (with Johannes Urpelainen) of Renewables (MIT Press).

Johannes Urpelainen is Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Professor of Energy, Resources, and Environment at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS,) Founding Director of the Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy (ISEP), and coauthor (with Michaël Aklin) of Renewables (MIT Press).

Table of Contents

List of Figures ix

List of Tables xi

Preface xiii

I The Argument 1

1 Introduction 3

1.1 Renewable Energy: Political and Economic Challenges 7

1.2 Summary of the Argument 11

1.3 Ideas, Implications, and Contributions 15

1.4 Plan of the Book 19

2 Renewable Energy: Past, Present, and Future 21

2.1 Renewable Energy: Opportunities and Challenges 24

2.2 Historical Energy Transitions 29

2.3 The Early Years of Renewable Energy 32

2.4 Localized Expansion 36

2.5 Globalizing Renewable Energy 40

3 Policy Responses to External Shocks: A Theory 43

3.1 External Shocks 48

3.2 Politicization 62

3.3 National Lock-In and Global Convergence 77

3.4 Research Strategy 82

II A Political History of Renewable Energy 89

4 External Shocks: Destabilizing the Carbon Economy 91

4.1 The 1973 and 1979 Oil Crises: Of Shocks and Policy Responses 92

4.2 Summary of Comparative Case Studies 96

4.3 Frontrunners in Key Industrialized Countries: United States and Germany 99

4.4 Why Did France and the United Kingdom Not Respond? 115

4.5 Contrasting the Danish and Finnish Cases 122

5 Politicization: When the Stakes Grow Too High 129

5.1 Renewable Energy Growth and Policies across Nations 130

5.2 Summary of Comparative Case Studies 133

5.3 Politicization of Renewable Energy in the United States 136

5.4 The German Case 146

5.5 Limits to Politicization and Opposition in Denmark 158

5.6 The Dogs That Did Not Bark 166

6 Lock-In: An Era of Rapid Growth 173

6.1 A Global Boom in Renewable Energy Investment 175

6.2 Summary of Comparative Case Studies 178

6.3 Rapid Growth in Pioneer Countries: Denmark and Germany 181

6.4 The Comeback of an Early Leader: The United States 187

6.5 Renewables Arrive in France and the United Kingdom 191

6.6 The Case of Spain 195

6.7 The Global Diffusion of Renewable Energy 197

6.8 Renewables in Emerging Giants: China and India 199

6.9 Beyond China and India 207

III The Road Ahead 217

7 Improving National Policy 219

7.1 Seizing the Opportunity: Tailored Policy Responses 220

7.2 Creating Winners and Advocacy Coalitions 225

7.3 Managing the Lock-In of Renewables 230

7.4 Guiding International Cooperation 236

7.5 Promoting Renewables across Borders 242

8 Conclusion 249

8.1 Renewables and Global Energy Futures 251

8.2 Implications for Energy 255

8.3 Implications for International and Comparative Political Economy 259

8.4 Powering the Future with Renewables 261

Notes 265

References 285

Index 323

What People are Saying About This

Varun Sivaram

Wind and solar power have become the cheapest, fastest-growing energy sources on the planet. Technology improvement is only one part of that story; public policies around the world have also played crucial roles in boosting renewable energy. For the first time, Aklin and Urpelainen articulate a powerful theory that explains how political coalitions arose to back renewables and why only in some countries, such as Germany, did those coalitions gain the upper hand over fossil fuel interests to lock in favorable renewable energy policies. The authors warn, however, that the next chapter of renewable energy's political evolution could be fraught, and that policymakers must balance the goals of a clean energy transition with the demands of newly powerful industries. Renewables: The Politics of a Global Energy Transition is a must read for anyone interested in the history of a wildly successful political movement and the lessons that countries can apply to navigate messy politics and achieve a clean future.

From the Publisher

Wind and solar power have become the cheapest, fastest-growing energy sources on the planet. Technology improvement is only one part of that story; public policies around the world have also played crucial roles in boosting renewable energy. For the first time, Aklin and Urpelainen articulate a powerful theory that explains how political coalitions arose to back renewables and why only in some countries, such as Germany, did those coalitions gain the upper hand over fossil fuel interests to lock in favorable renewable energy policies. The authors warn, however, that the next chapter of renewable energy's political evolution could be fraught, and that policymakers must balance the goals of a clean energy transition with the demands of newly powerful industries. Renewables: The Politics of a Global Energy Transition is a must read for anyone interested in the history of a wildly successful political movement and the lessons that countries can apply to navigate messy politics and achieve a clean future.

Varun Sivaram , Philip D. Reed Fellow for Science and Technology, Council on Foreign Relations; author of Taming the Sun: Innovations to Harness Solar Energy and Power the Planet

This book adds an important set of insights to our understanding of the tremendous energy transition we are now witnessing. It helps illuminate something fundamental; namely, that the political and policy contours of the transition are at least as important as the technical ones.

Morgan D. Bazilian , Research Professor of Public Policy, Colorado School of Mines; coauthor of Analytical Methods for Energy Diversity and Security

Endorsement

This book adds an important set of insights to our understanding of the tremendous energy transition we are now witnessing. It helps illuminate something fundamental; namely, that the political and policy contours of the transition are at least as important as the technical ones.

Morgan D. Bazilian, Research Professor of Public Policy, Colorado School of Mines; coauthor of Analytical Methods for Energy Diversity and Security

Morgan D. Bazilian

This book adds an important set of insights to our understanding of the tremendous energy transition we are now witnessing. It helps illuminate something fundamental; namely, that the political and policy contours of the transition are at least as important as the technical ones.

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