The Politics of a Global Energy Transition
344 pp., 6 x 9 in, 12 b&w illus.
- Published: March 23, 2018
- Published: March 23, 2018
- Published: March 16, 2018
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.
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