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This volume explores the geopolitics of renewables: the implications for interstate energy relations of a transition towards renewable energy. Noting the different geographic and technical characteristics of renewable energy systems vis-à-vis those of fossil fuels, it investigates specifically how renewables might (re)shape strategic realities and policy considerations of producer, consumer, and transit countries and energy-related patterns of cooperation and conflict between them. Focus is on contemporary developments and how they may shape the coming decades. The objective is to establish a comprehensive overview and understanding of the emerging energy game, one that puts the topic on the map and provides practical illustrations of the changes renewables bring to energy geopolitics and specific countries. To this end, a novel analytical framework is introduced that moves from geography and technology to economics and politics and developments are studied on three levels of analysis: (a) the emerging global energy game, winners and losers; (b) regional and bilateral energy relations of established and rising powers; and (c) infrastructure developments and governance responses. This concluding chapter summarizes the core developments shaping the geopolitics of renewables, using the framework to reflect on the relationship under study and our expectations. It also draws overarching lessons for the field of geopolitics of renewables and regarding the challenges and opportunities countries face in securing an affordable energy supply in the emerging energy game.
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Fossil fuels know global trade in primary energy resources (coal, natural gas, crude oil), production and processing facilities (power plant, drilling rig, refinery, etc.), and secondary energy sources (electricity, heat, hydrogen, gasoline). While crude oil and natural gas are two of the top three commodities traded globally (see Chap. 5), for renewables we do not expect large trade volumes of primary energy sources. Renewable energy installations need not be continuously fed by resources that are traded. The wind and sun are free goods available across the globe and are harvested close to where they are needed. There is little need or ability to ship these. For biomass, a similar argument can be made: because of the generally high water content of this fuel, it is best used close to the source. The same goes for geothermal energy, which is produced in the form of heat. With decentral generation of renewable energy sources, one might expect that global trade in production and processing facilities might go up. To produce the same kWhs, many solar panels need to be installed as opposed to a single coal-fired power plant. However, their total trade value may end up being roughly equal, taking all material suppliers and maintenance also into account. With regards to trade in secondary energy sources, due to increases in decentral production the amount of electricity traded and shipped is likely to decrease, unless local trading within communities takes off (in which case trade is also more geographically restricted). In sum, in our view, the need to ship or pipe primary energy resources will be reduced significantly. It will also not be replaced by shipping generation technologies or trade in secondary energy resources.
As stated in Chap. 1, we assume that consumer countries are concerned about security of supply and desire stable and affordable energy prices, that producers want to maximize energy revenues to fuel their economy and desire security of demand, and that transit countries are essentially interested in retaining their position in the infrastructure in order to extract a fair rate for their services and to create some political leverage for themselves (sitting at the table).
- The Strategic Realities of the Emerging Energy Game—Conclusion and Reflection
- Chapter 12