Redrawing the Geopolitical Map: International Relations and Renewable Energies
In the emerging renewable energy era, political influence will accrue to those states with renewable resources that attain self-sufficiency and export dominance. The losers will be the countries lagging behind, still bound to hydrocarbon supplies and asymmetrical supply relations, and unable to reap the full political and economic benefits of renewables. Drawing upon theories of international relations, this chapter explores the links between energy and national power as well as the implications of energy-related dependencies. In general, states in asymmetrical relationships are vulnerable to external pressure and more constrained in their foreign policy options. With renewable energies, energy relations will be more mutual and symmetrical. However, states could be import dependent in at least three areas: (1) electricity supply via high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission lines; (2) biofuels, and (3) critical materials. The hydrocarbons-to-renewables transition may take decades to unfold, but the trajectories countries opt for now will be decisive. With insights extracted from the scholarship on technological change (the multi-level perspective), three variables are identified that represent the forces either facilitating or impeding transitions to renewable energies: (1) raw renewable energy potential, (2) political receptiveness, and (3) the strength/weakness of the hydrocarbon lobby. These variables provide a way to surmise which countries might be the winners or losers and how renewable energies could redraw the world’s ‘geopolitical map’. The chapter closes with a discussion of the implications and argues that the power dynamics associated with renewable energies will be far different from those of oil and natural gas.
KeywordsGeopolitics Renewable energies Energy transition International relations Multi-level perspective
For their assistance with various phases of this study, I would like to thank Batyr Araztaganov, Christine Brandstätt, Lydia Canals, Andrea Giuliani, Henrik Jacobsen, Julia Kusznir, Stefan Kuzmanovski, Didem Serkan, Colin Vance and Adi Wilhelm. For their helpful reviews, I thank Daniel Scholten and Thijs Van de Graaf. All remaining errors are mine alone.
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