The energy transition is about much more than just switching one fuel for another—like replacing coal with renewables. It happens in the context of our societies, which are strongly influenced by the economic interests of various actors and their political power; aspects of global trade; and the impact of those technologies on the ecological environment. And ultimately, these facets of the transition can have even more influence over the outcome than the characteristics of technologies themselves. We could have the best energy transition solutions in the world, but if we can’t get them actually deployed because incumbents on the losing end of energy transition resist, the transition will fail.
One way we can understand those influences is by looking at their histories, as well as their contemporary political economies. But these aspects of the energy transition haven’t received nearly as much attention or study as the technologies themselves, so we're taking a look in Episode #164.
In this episode, we speak with Peter Newell, a researcher at the University of Sussex in the UK, about his new book titled Power Shift: The Global Political Economy of Energy Transitions. It offers a helpful, five-part framework for understanding the political economy of the energy transition, and draws upon history, academic literature, the author’s own experience with renewable energy projects, as well as other sources to offer some useful insights about the forces that resist the energy transition, as well as how to make the energy transition a success—not only in economic terms, but also in terms of environmental and social justice.
Peter Newell is Professor of International Relations at the University of Sussex and Research Director of the Rapid Transition Alliance. He has worked on the political economy of energy transitions and climate change for over 25 years. His books include Climate for Change, Governing Climate Change, Climate Capitalism, and Global Green Politics.
On Twitter: @PeterJNewell_
On the Web: Peter Newell’s faculty page at the University of Sussex
Recording date: January 5, 2022
Air date: January 19, 2022
Geek rating: 3