Power Shift. The Global Political Economy of Energy Transitions.

AuthorAndrews-Speed, Philip

Andrews-Speed, Philip

Power Shift. The Global Political Economy of Energy Transitions, by Peter Newell (Cambridge University Press, 2021). 283 pages, ISBN: 9781108832854 (hardback), ISBN: 9781108965828 (paperback), ISBN: 9781108966184 (ebook).

The need to address global climate change is urgent. Radical action is needed now. Current strategies are both inadequate to address the challenge and deeply unjust. A new approach is needed that combines top-down and bottom-up mechanisms. Thus, could a three-line summary of Peter Newell's new book be sketched. Such a summary might imply that nothing new was on offer. Such a deduction would be wrong. For Newell, as is to be expected, has given us a deeply thoughtful account of where we are failing and how we can do better by drawing on multiple strands of theory and practice.

To quote from the book's Preface "By introducing neglected global, political, historical and ecological dimensions, the book provides a richer account of the necessary enabling conditions and political processes required...." At the heart of his argument lies the need to recognise that top-down actions by governments, corporations and international organisations is necessary but not sufficient. Democratisation of energy are needed both to accelerate the low-carbon energy transition and to ensure distributional and procedural justice. The analysis draws on literatures from socio-technical transitions, historical economics, political economy and political ecology, and combines them with empirical evidence to argue that the low-carbon transition requires a revolutionary transformation of politics and economics across the world.

Chapter 2 draws on these different fields of theory to provide the framework for the rest of the book. The subsequent three chapters identify the factors that constrain the low-carbon energy transition and lock-in the contemporary energy systems. In Chapter 3, Newell reminds us that debates around the low-carbon energy transition tend to be focused on the production of energy--how to produce cleaner energy or remove the emissions from dirty energy sources. Insufficient attention is paid to energy efficiency or energy conservation, let alone to the logic of why energy is produced and for whom. The current structures of energy production give power to the producers of energy, whether corporations or states. It is the reluctance of these actors to give up their power and rents that is a key obstacle to the...

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