National Renewable Energy Policy in a Global World

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Jeong, Minji
Hultman, Nathan E.
Increasing trade of renewable energy products has significantly contributed to reducing the costs of renewable energy sources, but at the same time, it has generated protectionist policies, which may negatively affect the trend of the cost reduction. Although a few recent studies examined the rise of renewable energy protectionism and trade disputes, they are limited in addressing the conflict between the original goal of traditional renewable energy policies and the new protectionist policies under the globalized renewable energy industry. To fill this gap, this dissertation explores how the globalized renewable energy industry has changed national renewable energy policies. Through three analyses, three aspects of the globalized renewable energy industry are examined: the rise of multinational corporations, international interactions among actors, and the changes of the global and domestic market conditions. First analysis investigates how multinational renewable energy corporations have affected national policies. A content analysis of the annual reports of 15 solar photovoltaic multinational corporation shows that solar multinationals have been influenced by national policies and have adapted to the changes rather than having attempted to change national policies. Second analysis examines how diverse actors have framed renewable energy trade issues through a network analysis of the Chinese solar panel issue in the United States. The result shows that the Chinese solar panel issue was framed differently from the traditional environmental frame of renewable energy, being dominated by multinational corporations headquartered in other countries. Third analysis explores what has caused the increasing diversity in national renewable energy policies through the case studies of the U.S. and South Korea. The result reveals that the globalization of solar industry has affected the diversification of solar policies in two countries by generating both challenges, which needed to be addressed by new and additional policies, and opportunities, which strengthened the political power of domestic solar industries. The three analyses show that the globalized renewable energy industry has led to the diversification of national renewable energy policies by increasing international interactions between actors and by introducing both challenges and opportunities to domestic renewable energy industries. This research contributes to the literature on trade and the environment by analyzing a new pattern of the conflicts between traditional environmental policies and “green” protectionist policies. It also contributes to the literature on protectionism by adding an empirical case of green protectionism, one of the forms of “murky” protectionism that has risen after the global financial crisis.