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The Geopolitics of Renewable Energy


For a century, the geopolitics of energy has been synonymous with the geopolitics of oil and gas. However, geopolitics and the global energy economy are both changing. The international order predominant since the end of World War II faces mounting challenges. At the same time, renewable energy is growing rapidly. Nevertheless, the geopolitics of renewable energy has received relatively little attention, especially when considering the far-reaching consequences of a global shift to renewable energy. The paper starts with a discussion of seven renewable energy scenarios for the coming decades: the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2016, the EIA’s International Energy Outlook 2016, IRENA’s REmap 2016, Bloomberg’s New Energy Outlook 2016, BP’s Energy Outlook 2016, Exxon-Mobil’s Outlook for Energy 2016 and the joint IEA and IRENA G20 de-carbonization scenario. The paper then discusses seven mechanisms through which renewables could shape geopolitics: Critical materials supply chains, technology and finance, new resource curse, electric grids, reduced oil and gas demand, avoided climate change, and sustainable energy access.