This page links to reviews of research and popular publications on energy transitions as well as original analyses. We strive to prepare our posts in academically rigorous yet generally accessible manner
Before its fast expansion in the 2000s, wind power in the UK developed slower than in Germany. Why did this lag occur? While many early studies argued that it was due to a wrong selection of policy instruments, more careful look suggest that other factors may have played a role.
Energy transitions involve not only expanding wind, solar and other low-carbon technologies but also phasing out existing carbon-intensive sources such as coal. Introducing new energy sources is often easier to advocate as it involves no job or revenue losses. However, phasing out existing energy technologies is harder both economically and politically, though it is precisely what eventually reduces greenhouse gas emissions. In a new project, we focus at this unexplored dark side of energy transitions.
A newly published paper proposes a meta-theoretical framework integrating techno-economic, socio-technical and political perspectives on national energy transitions. The use of the framework is illustrated by a comparative analysis of energy transitions in Germany and Japan.
In 2001-2014, wind power in the UK followed exactly the same trajectory as wind power in Germany in 1994-2007. Both paths are accurately predicted by the technology diffusion theory and do not show differences that would require additional socio-political explanations. What does require explanation is why the exponential growth of wind power was triggered in Germany and not in the UK in the early- or mid-1990s.
A new paper contributes to understanding national variations in using low-carbon electricity sources by comparing the evolution of nuclear, wind and solar power in Germany and Japan. We explain why in the 1970s–1980s, the energy paths of the two countries were remarkably similar, but since the 1990s Germany has become a leader in renewables while phasing out nuclear energy, whereas Japan has deployed less renewables while becoming a leader in nuclear power.
In response to our Comment in Nature (1), Cherp and Jewell write that Japan's ambition for renewables was not altered by the Fukushima disaster (2). Although the evidence they present is technically accurate and their point on the decreased role of nuclear is correct, we would like to bring a broader context to the readers’ attention.
According to an article in Kommersant, a Russian business daily, Rosatom, the Russian state-owned corporation specialising in manufacturing of nuclear equipment and construction of nuclear plants is on the way to dominate Russian wind power market.
In a recent letter to Nature we argue that Japan had become a world's leader in solar energy long before Fukushima. This is both good and bad news for low-carbon energy transitions. On the one hand, there is no need to wait for a nuclear disaster to develop renewable electricity. On the other hand, solar and wind energy will not magically emerge after an earthquake and a tsunami strike a nuclear power plant.
I am grateful to Craig Morris of energytransition.de for responding to my post on nuclear, coal and renewables in Germany and Japan. Morris calls for focusing on real-world politics of energy transitions, but paradoxically views this politics as a mess. Is Realpolitik really a mess or can it be untangled to highlight useful lessons for countries that want to learn from the Energiewende?
Historian Gabrielle Hecht analyses the development of nuclear power in France as a project of restoring "the radiance of France", its past glory, through novel technology. She traces a tension between a 'nationalist' and a 'nationalised' ideas of nuclear power and shows how the latter decisively wins at the first sight of the oil crisis. This historical analysis contains important lessons for contemporary energy transitions.