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From a Breeze to the Four Winds: The Diffusion of Renewable Energy Policies to Developing Countries

Development
Globalisation
Political Economy
Elia Alves
Federal University of Pernambuco Brazil
Andrea Steiner
Universidade Federal de Pernambuco
Elia Alves
Federal University of Pernambuco Brazil
Marcelo de Almeida Medeiros
Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (Brazil)
Andrea Steiner
Universidade Federal de Pernambuco
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Abstract

In 2005, renewable energy policies were present in 43 countries. Ten years later, this number was three times higher. How did renewable energy policies become present all over the world in such a short time? Although multiple vectors influence a country’s energy choices, both domestically and internationally, these issues relate to two broad processes: energy security and climate change. Nonetheless, energy issues and policy adoption are immersed in a context of conflicting actors and interests. The diffusion of renewable energy policies is also directly related to countries’ international insertion, whether through intergovernmental institutions or motivated by civil society movements or by the private sector. However, developed countries’ ability to respond to international pressures differs from that of developing countries. While the former appear to be more sensitive to changes in the international system as they are more embedded in it, developing countries have less capacity to implement new strategies and are more vulnerable to the international context. As an example, developing countries are more subject to the adverse effects of external economic events, such as international crises and the reduction of inflows of capital to finance internal projects. This paper presents an analytical framework to tackle the international diffusion of renewable energies policies. We claim that policies have diffused systematically from developed to developing countries through specific types of channels and actors. We label the actors and triggers behind this policy diffusion process and, based on a nested strategy analysis (quanti-quali), we identify four mechanisms and three groups of actors that are intrinsically related to the phenomenon. We also employ negative binomial regression to analyze data from 105 countries, from 2005 to 2015, and compare developed and developing countries. The Brazilian policy to incentive wind power is used as a case study to identify the corresponding actors and vectors listed by the quantitative analysis. Among our main findings, we discuss the importance of domestic factors that influence policy adoption among developed countries, such as the liberalization of the energy sector, the high dependence on fossil fuels, and carbon emissions from the electricity sector. Concerning developing countries, we highlight the relevance of international forces, such as the European Union and the role of private interest groups and civil society movements. We also find consistent effects of the 2008 financial crisis on the adoption of renewable energy policies among developing countries, which suggests that their vulnerability to the impact of international events on domestic policies is higher than among developed countries.