How well are we doing?
Editor's note: We will soon be updating our policy comparisons and case studies to include our 12 newest countries: Germany, Serbia, South Korea, USA, Ethiopia, Australia, Spain, Italy, Nigeria, Turkey, Indonesia, Japan.
Over a third of all greenhouse gas emissions come from generating energy, the largest contribution from any sector of the economy. Having a Clean energy policy, therefore, must be a priority for any country taking climate change seriously. Since most energy is produced by burning fossil fuels, clean energy policy requires both support green alternatives like solar, wind, and hydroelectric power, and finding ways to disincentivise coal, oil, and gas use.
National adoption of clean energy policies reflect a belief – still prevalent at government levels – that all we need to achieve a green economy is windfarms and solar panels. It is therefore less surprising that support for clean energy was amongst the strongest of all our policy areas (after green economy national planning), and all 20 countries surveyed had aspirational targets for renewables in place. Unfortunately, it’s also the case that none of the countries have yet committed to a comprehensive low carbon energy transition that covers final energy consumption by consumers - i.e. including transport and buildings.
Bangladesh, Botswana and Trinidad and Tobago had amongst the weakest approaches, with limited targets covering electricity only and an unclear implementation plan. Portugal and the United Kingdom have relatively strong policy approaches, with credible targets and strong incentives for renewables. Morocco, India and China are also demonstrating clear ambition for a clean energy transition - starting from highly polluting baselines in the case of the latter two. But the strongest policy frameworks come from Costa Rica, and arguably Sweden, who have combined ambitious targets with consistent policy support for clean energy – helped by both country’s ample hydropower reserves.
About this policy
Electricity generation is a big part of energy policy, but far from the only one. We also use energy to heat and cool our homes, cook our food, and power our transport. Providing clean and renewable alternatives in all these areas and technologies is necessary – and cheaper in the long run – but governments will need to make investments early in order to drive change. Having a target for renewable energy doesn’t mean much without a credible clean energy investment plan that will provide funds for new infrastructure, research, and market incentives.
The weakest approaches to national clean energy policy will have minimal financial support and no targets for renewable energy, or very minimal targets for the overall energy sector. More ambitious policies will have short term renewables targets for some sectors – most often, electricity – perhaps with limited funding for new installation. The best policies will set bold targets for renewable energy in final energy consumption across the entire economy, including buildings and transport; set out a clear medium- and long-term policy pathway to 2050; provide substantial investment and financial incentives; and lock in stable policy support to accelerate deployment of renewables and reduce fossil fuel consumption.
Case Study: Costa Rica
In the last few years, Costa Rica has produced almost all of its electricity from renewable sources – largely from hydro, wind and geothermal power. Costa Rica’s Clean Energy Plan intends to maintain this even as demand for energy increases as the country develops. However, transport and energy more broadly is still reliant on fossil fuel sources; demonstrating that clean energy is not just about solar panels and wind farms, renewables still make up less than a quarter of the nation’s total energy use. The focus on transportation in the 2019 Decarbonisation Plan aims to address this in the future.
Case Study: Morocco
The Kingdom of Morocco was an early and enthusiastic champion of solar power, as spiralling costs for imported fossil fuels – as well as the political ramifications of the Arab Spring – prompted new thinking on energy, employment and social welfare. When launched in 2009, the Morocco Solar Plan was the most ambitious on the planet, and the country now boasts the world’s largest concentrated solar farm at Ouarzazate. Well on its way to achieving its target of 52% renewables by 2030, Morocco is turning its vast, mountainous and virtually uninhabited deserts into productive natural resources – and potentially even a new export industry.Morocco Country Profile