Global Governance and the Interplay of Coordination and Contestation: The Case of Renewable Energies in the South.

Author:Hein, Wolfgang
Position:Report
 
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THERE IS A COMMON UNDERSTANDING THAT ACCESS TO MODERN FORMS OF ENERGY plays a crucial role in development--as a necessary, even though not sufficient condition. (1) This shared belief, however, has not resulted in a coherent global political strategy emerging from international conferences dedicated to this topic, but rather a proliferation of activities by a growing range of different public and private actors. Renewable energies play a significant role in all current projections of future energy supply. (2) But neither do the main actors in the political arena agree on the optimal structure of the grid infrastructure and the technologies of energy supply, nor is there any consensus regarding support schemes in the North as well as the Global South. Conceptual explorations making sense of the shape of the institutional landscape therefore seem to be helpful to understand institutional diversity and its merits as well as its limitations and the challenges emerging from it.

Most of the global energy governance literature focuses on effectiveness, static efficiency, or legitimacy of transboundary institutional arrangements. Existing analyses of the emergence and the change of governance structures often deal with fossil fuels specifically. In contrast, this article contributes to the understanding of governance dynamics in the renewable energy sector specifically, referring to constructivist theories and the concept of nodal governance. Rather than putting all the emphasis on the necessity of more coordination, it seems necessary to have a closer look at the processes of how the set of actors develops and how they coordinate or contest the actions taken by others. How is this continuous process of contestation and coordination (decisionmaking and implementation) evolving? How can it be assured that even in the face of ongoing contestation, things get done?

Therefore, the basic idea of the article is to further develop the conceptual and theoretical framework to understand governance dynamics of renewable energy supply in general, and especially of financing rural electrification in the Global South. This implies also to draw on some threads of the more general discourse on global governance and to contribute in particular to the discourse around the notions of coordination, contestation, and the changes of positions and strategies in sectoral global governance.

This article is structured as follows. First, a short overview of the state of the art in global energy governance and the increasing quest for coordination in many sectors of global governance leads us to formulate doubts on the primary focus of these discourses on institutionalizing coordination. Second, we look at global governance in a more dynamic perspective, assuming that processes of contestation are at the origin of multiactor constellations. A situation, where an increasing number of actors and of complex actor constellations is seen as the problem, cannot be understood by reference to free-riding but rather by a quest for power. We introduce the concept of nodal governance as an approach worth pursuing. We illustrate theoretical elaborations by different examples of governance dynamics related to the renewable energy sector of the South.

Work on Global (Renewable) Energy Governance: The Quest for More Coordination

Relevance of the Global Level in Renewable Energy Governance In a frequently quoted article, Ann Florini and Benjamin K. Sovacool highlighted that not much had been written on global energy governance in general compared to the literature on governance in other sectors; in particular, global health and development cooperation. (3) In the years since, this picture has been changing with the growing body of literature on global climate governance. (4) Moreover, access to energy has appeared once again as a major item on the international agenda. The same can be said about the issue of energy security, which is--together with the supply of oil and gas--the focus of many of the global energy governance contributions. (5)

The lack of academic literature on the global governance of renewable energy until recently reflects to some degree that renewable energy has not been at the forefront of large conferences and the work of large international organizations--or if so, interest in it declined soon after. Certainly, most of the advances that had been achieved up until the turn of the millennium were primarily due to national-level activities. (6) As in energy policy in general, in renewable energy policy the national level plays a dominant role. However, beyond the issue of an unequal distribution of deposits of fossil energy sources and the ensuing trade dependence, some specifically transboundary issues arise in the energy sector as well: grid lines extend beyond borders, which makes transnational grid management and regulation necessary; for example, within regional power pools such as the Southern African Power Pool. Large-scale hydropower plants have an impact on water resources downstream, for example, along the Nile, which led to the creation of an intergovernmental organization, the Nile Basin Initiative. Moreover, renewable energy policy influences other policy fields, especially environmental policy, climate protection, and development cooperation. In both of these cases, transboundary issues are of utmost relevance: climate protection constitutes a global public good. Development aid tries to eradicate poverty through capital and technology transfer from the North to the South and through policy advice. Overall, jurisdictional scale plays a role with regard to different dimensions, especially (1) norms (rules), goals and perceptions, and norm-building processes; and (2) actors or stakeholders within the political arena and their relationships. Norms defining how electricity should be supplied and electricity projects structured and financed are not only built at a national level, but are cocreated in supranational discourses and practices. Examples are:

* The support for feed-in tariffs for renewable energy deployment in developing countries by intergovernmental organizations (UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs [UN DES A], Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action [AWG-LCA]), civil society organizations (CSOs) and philanthropic foundations (Greenpeace, Project Catalyst, World Future Council), and business sector organizations (Deutsche Bank, World Wind Energy Association/International Renewable Energy Alliance), and its subsequent implementation in different countries (e.g., Tanzania);

* The policy advice by multilateral development banks or the imposition of certain policies through aid conditionality, here especially the liberalization of electricity markets, but also by CSOs; and

* The global discourse on the (un)sustainability of biofuels or bioenergy in general.

All of these examples also illustrate the different types of actors influencing renewable energy policy and implementation of projects, especially in the Global South, where often multiple market and government failures, low governance capacities, and high discount rates prevent the development of renewable energies. (7)

State of the Art of Research on Global (Renewable) Energy Governance Despite the relative importance of the global level in this context, there still is a lack of linking important issues of the global governance discourse to the emerging pattern of global governance in renewable energy. Several authors map the institutional landscape and describe historical developments from the 1961 UN Conference on New Sources of Energy in Rome over the 1981 Nairobi conference, the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Group of 7/Group of 8 (G7/8) summits, and the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg in 2002 to the Rio+20 conference and the enactment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). (8) These mappings illustrate the proliferation of actors and fragmentation of global (renewable) energy governance, which is constituted by a complex web of organizations and institutions including global and regional intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) such as the UN system or energy sector governance organizations such as the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), summit processes (e.g., G7/8, Group of 20 [G-20]), international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and multilateral financial institutions (MFIs), especially development banks, bilateral donors, and hybrid entities. (9) Other authors highlight general trends in global energy governance. (10) Most of these authors are skeptical about the proliferation of actors and demand more coordination and new institutions after the demise of post--World War II multilateralism, which was characterized by one UN special agency responsible for a specific sector or problem area. Several potential coordinators have been analyzed (e.g., the IEA or the G8/G-20 and their steering capacity). (11)

As studies on other sectors have shown, the phenomenon of a proliferation of actors and a growing complexity of actor constellations can be observed all over global governance fields; in particular, health, (12) development aid, (13) and climate governance.' (4) Concerns over the effectiveness of global governance mainly concentrate on the presumably increasing chaos of actors and the lack of coordination among them. On the other hand, the analyses of multiactor constellations point to a mobilization of resources that probably would not have been reached without the proliferation of actors, and the advocative and innovative role of CSOs in political conflicts.

In essence, the proliferation of energy governors can be seen as a result of these failures of coordination on a global level. Instead, several UN organizations together with bilateral donors or private partners developed...

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