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EU’s Renewable Energy Policies – What Impact on Developing Countries?

Sam Wong
University of Liverpool
Sam Wong
University of Liverpool
Open Panel

Abstract

The European Union (EU) has been, and will continue to be, an influential player in shaping renewable energy policies in developing countries. Taking the period between 1995 and 2006 alone, it has invested more than €135 million in promoting renewable energy. A European Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, has coined the term ‘renewable revolution’ which conceptualises the EU’s dual strategies in renewable energy development: to achieve the EU’s 2020 vision which ensures 20% of its energy supplies are generated from renewable sources and to address global energy poverty, in which 1.5 billion people lack access to clean energy. This paper reviews the EU’s renewable energy policies and examines their impact on developing countries. By interrogating the EU’s renewable energy frameworks and documents, it argues that the EU’s renewable energy interventions in developing countries are largely driven by self-interest, aiming to achieve energy security by making use of developing countries, especially those in North Africa. The EU’s funding allocation in renewable energy outside the EU is highly uneven - more than three-quarters of the investment has been placed in the Balkans, the former Soviet Union and the Mediterranean, and only 4% spent in Asia and South America. Our study suggests that the funding allocation is driven by political reasons, rather than by the actual needs of the countries. The EU claims that its renewable energy strategies would benefit developing countries in the long-term, but in reality, the EU is motivated economically by the expanding business opportunities for renewable energy products in developing countries. Another critique of the EU policies is that it reinforces the supply-side energy management which fuels the EU’s economic growth, without paying an adequate attention to the governance issues about how renewable energy is produced in developing countries. This paper concludes that the EU needs to improve the transparency of its decision-making process. It should allocate the funds more fairly by targeting the actual needs of developing countries. It should also see developing countries as equal partners and help them develop their renewable potential.