“The geopolitics of renewables: New board, new game”, Indra Øverland, Daniel Scholaten, Morgan Bazilian and Kirsten Westphal (NUPI, Norway)

This policy perspective sums up the main input of four members of the Research Panel for IRENA’s Global Commission on the Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation. The geographic and technical characteristics of renewable energy systems are fundamentally different from those of coal, oil, and natural gas. This has implications for interstate energy relations and will require early attention if states are to exploit opportunities and address challenges. We point to six clusters of renewables’ geopolitical implications that will manifest themselves over different time horizons. Overall, a generally positive disruption is foreseen, but also one that raises new energy security challenges. Moreover, while renewables will eventually render energy relations more horizontal and polycentric, achieving a smooth transition will not be easy. Renewables alter arenas of energy interaction, transforming markets and shifting trade partners, and reshape patterns of cooperation and conflict among countries. One possible outcome is a world of continental-sized grid communities made up of prosumer countries that continuously strategize between secure domestic production and cheap imports. Political action is required to manage, inter alia, industrial competition, stranded assets, availability of electricity and storage capacity, critical materials, and rivalry over ownership of key infrastructure assets.

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