Green windows of opportunity for latecomer development in renewable energies

By Xiaolan Fu, University of Oxford, Rasmus Lema, University of Aalborg and Roberta Rabellotti, University of Pavia

There is increasing recognition that policies aimed at meeting environmental targets may open new economic development paths, especially for emerging economies, given the green transformation and related techno-economic paradigm changes across institutional, market and technological domains. Looking at China, a recent article highlights the importance of institutional transformation to create “green windows of opportunity” (GWOs) for economic structural change associated with the green economy. Green windows of opportunity represent a set of favourable, temporary conditions for “latecomers” to catch-up in the long run in sectors central to the green economy. 

To investigate GWOs there needs to be a new framework for two main reasons. First, it is essential to deviate from the environmentally unfriendly development pathways undertaken in the past by advanced economies of North America and Western Europe. Emerging economies should ‘develop differently’ from the outset rather than catch-up along established pathways. Second, the green transformation, as a significant driver of current capitalist development, has features that sets it apart from earlier transformations. It is the first industrial and technological revolution with a deadline and it is steered explicitly by public policy, driven not just by economic motivations, but also by social value. 

Green windows of opportunity

This new analytical framework is summarised in Figure 1, with green windows of opportunity at its core, driven by institution and policy changes rather than technological or market change. Empirical evidence on biomass, hydro, solar photovoltaic, concentrated solar power and wind shows that institutional changes are the central drivers of green windows of opportunity. Examples from China include both cross-cutting changes such as the implementation of the 2006 Renewable Energy Law and sector-focused missions such as the Golden Sun Demonstration Program in the solar photovoltaic sector and the Rind the Wind Program. While the drivers of the emergence of these green windows are essentially institutional and policy-driven in nature, they influence and interact with technological and market transformations.

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Are African countries heading for a carbon lock-in or leapfrogging to renewables?

By Galina Alova, Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford

Non-hydro renewables are likely to account for less than 10% of Africa’s power generation by the end of this decade. My recent co-authored study predicts fossil fuels to continue to dominate the electricity mix in many African countries, and the continent as a whole.

Opportunity to power development with renewables

Africa is presented with an important opportunity to make a decisive leap to renewables this decade. The continent’s energy demand is projected to more than double in the coming years, as countries seek to industrialise and improve the development outcomes for their growing populations, including providing affordable power to close the energy access gap. At the same time, Africa – the land of sun and wind – possesses vast renewable energy resources.  

Against this backdrop, renewables have become increasingly more competitive in the past years, with their cost set to decline further compared to conventional fossil-fuel-based generation. The affordability of battery storage has also significantly improved, with lithium-ion battery packs hitting a record low in 2020.

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How COVID-19 is changing the opportunities for oil and gas-led growth

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By Glada Lahn and Siân Bradley, Senior Research Fellows, Energy, Environment and Resources Programme


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


shutterstock_680622253For oil and gas exporters, COVID-19 has caused a downturn like no other. From early 2020, lockdowns sent global energy demand plummeting by over a quarter. Combined with the Saudi-Russia price war, oil prices hit their lowest levels in over two decades, down to less than $20 a barrel in April. Without strategic reserve filling, the collapse would have been even steeper. As lockdowns eased and June’s OPEC-plus agreement to cut production boosted oil prices (around $40/b in June), producer countries could be forgiven for hoping that the worst is over. However, as the pandemic hit, the fossil fuel market was already facing a grim prognosis.

From boom and bust to… bust

Five years ago, Chatham House began exploring what decarbonisation might mean for extractives-led development. To achieve the Paris Agreement’s commitment to limiting global warming to well below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C, all credible pathways will require a radical reduction in fossil fuel use. With 76 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and close to 90% of CO2 emissions coming from the burning of coal, oil and gas, the implications for these markets are profound. We are no longer talking about a cycle of boom and bust, but about structural decline. Continue reading

Electricity for all in Africa: Possible?

By Bakary Traoré, Economist, Sébastien Markley, Statistician, and Ines Zebdi, Research Assistant, OECD Development Centre 1 


Explore the 2017 African Economic Outlook: Entrepreneurship and Industrialisation in Africa for more on this subject


Electricity-in-Africa-shutterstock_563620138For decades, access to electricity has been a serious challenge in Africa. It still is. 600 million Africans are not connected to an electrical network. African businesses cite electricity amongst the two most severe constraints on their operations (Enterprise Surveys, 2016). Twenty-five of the 54 countries in Africa, including Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana and Senegal, deal with frequent power crises characterised by outages, irregular supply and surging electricity costs. These are symptoms of insufficient generation capacity and a lack of infrastructure.

Despite these sobering facts, a number of recent initiatives signal that major improvements may be underway. The impetus to act is driven by the benefits Africa can reap by investing in electrification. Such benefits go far beyond direct job creation in energy infrastructure, as important as that is. Several pieces of evidence (Jimenez [2017], Torero [2014], van de Walle et al. [2013]) suggest that household electrification also increases job opportunities by carving out more time for work and enabling rural micro-entrepreneurship. We see three reasons for hope that Africa is on the path to greater electrification – provided certain conditions are met.

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Africa’s Blue Economy: An opportunity not to be missed

By Carlos Lopes, UN Under Secretary General & Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa

Blue-economyThe world’s oceans, seas and rivers are a major source of wealth, creating trillions of dollars’ worth in goods and services as well as employing billions of people. Three out of four jobs that make up the entire global workforce are water-dependent. It is forecasted that the annual economic value of maritime-related activities will reach 2.5 trillion euros per year by 2020, while the International Energy Agency estimates that renewable energy from the ocean has a power potential sufficient to provide up to 400% of current global energy demand. Yet Africa’s blue potential remains untapped. Continue reading

Developing countries and the renewable energy revolution

By Prof. John A. Mathews, Professor of Strategy at Macquarie Graduate School of Management in Sydney, Australia and author of Greening of Capitalism

There was a time when arguments about development and energy were seen as different discourses. They came together in the familiar call for poor people in developing countries to have access to electricity. As for energy needed for industrialisation, fossil fuels – with all their burdens on the balance of payments and geopolitical entanglements – were tapped to fill the need.

To be sure, the Western world as it industrialised over the past 200 years enjoyed enormous benefits from fossil fuels. The transition to a carbon-based economy liberated economies from age-old Malthusian constraints. For a group of select countries representing a small slice of the global population, burning fossil fuels enabled an era of explosive growth, ushering in dramatic improvements in productivity, income, wealth and living standards. Continue reading