Jan 24, 2021

Wind or Solar? The Political Economy of Fuel Competition between Renewables


The Paris Agreement is the most comprehensive international treaty on climate change. Almost all countries (195 parties) have signed with many (169 parties, representing 88% of global emissions) (UNFCC, 2017) having ratified it to witness its swift entry into force on November 4, 2016, merely 11 months after its negotiation.

To fulfill the mitigation goals of individual countries, the replacement of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) with renewable energy plays a critical role. With a rapid expansion of renewables, the conventional fuel competition between fossil fuels and renewables is gradually evolving to include another competition between different types of renewables in the ever-crowded energy mix. Wind and solar are the two dominant non-hydro renewables in many countries. Competition and choice between them are driven by complicated political economy processes, not simply by technological and economic optimum.

This project assembles an international and interdisciplinary research team. Through comparing major countries/regions with significant renewable energy development, including Asia (China, Japan, and Indonesia), Australia, Europe (UK, Germany, and France), and North America (USA), this project aims to reach a deep understanding on the fuel competition between renewables, specifically wind and solar, from the political economy perspective.

It will examine the factors that affect the tendency toward investing more in solar or in wind in different countries over the years. These country case studies will be compiled, presented, and discussed at a workshop, and then published. A policy brief for public consumption will also be produced.

Our findings will provide critical knowledge and understanding to promote that renewables could be more economically and widely deployed across countries for accelerating their energy transition and replacement of fossil fuels.

The project will help to strengthen the penetration of renewables on a global scale, leading to significant CO2 mitigation in line with the Paris Agreement.

Selected outcomes