Export file:


  • RIS(for EndNote,Reference Manager,ProCite)
  • BibTex
  • Text


  • Citation Only
  • Citation and Abstract

Does politics matter? Explaining swings in wind power installations

Department of Sociology and Political Science, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway

Topical Section: Wind Energy

This is a social science article on the politics of wind power, and on whether or not politics actually matters. While it may seem obvious that politics actually does, I argue that the arguments that we encounter about wind power very often are about economics, technology or geography, arguments that have something deterministic to them, and which leaves politics a lesser factor. Against this, I argue that while these arguments may go a long way toward explaining the general upward trajectory of wind power, they do a bad job of explaining swings in wind power installations, why some countries are more successful at wind power in general, and why within countries, you typically have periods of both stops and starts. For this, we need a political explanation. Of these, there are many, but from the vantage point of political economy, I suggest a focus on vested interests, among other reasons because this is an explanation that can be used to analyze both democracies and non-democracies, and both presidential and parliamentarian systems. Methodologically, the study is a qualitative comparative case-study of five countries (US, Denmark, Japan, Germany, China) employing a combination of John Stuart Mill’s comparative methods and process-tracing. The main finding is that if you want to explain swings in wind power installations, you need to focus on the political system, and in particular on the interest politics that goes on behind the scenes. While economic, technological, or geographic explanations all provide useful amounts of understanding, neither explanation can explain swings. There is only one explanation that remains constant and important in every one of the five cases. Economics, technology and geography play different roles in different contexts to different extents. Politics on the other hand always plays a role.
  Article Metrics

Keywords wind power installations; politics; vested interests; swings; development trajectories

Citation: Espen Moe. Does politics matter? Explaining swings in wind power installations. AIMS Energy, 2017, 5(3): 341-373. doi: 10.3934/energy.2017.3.341


  • 1. GWEC (2017) Global Wind Statistics 2016. Available from: http://www.gwec.net/wp-content/uploads/vip/GWEC_PRstats2016_EN_WEB.pdf.
  • 2. REN21 (2016) Renewables 2016 Global Status Report, Paris: REN21 Secretariat.
  • 3. Moe E (2015) Renewable Energy Transition or Fossil Fuel Backlash, Houndsmill, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • 4. REN21 (2012) Renewables 2012 Global Status Report, Paris: REN21 Secretariat.
  • 5. IEA (2016) Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report 2016. Available from: http://www.iea.org/newsroom/news/2016/october/medium-term-renewable-energy-market report-2016.html.
  • 6. Economist To be relevant, economists need to take politics into account (2017). Available from: http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21714363-advent-trump-administration-finds-economics-profession-crisis.
  • 7. UN Chronicle (2015) How renewable energy can be cost-competitive. Available from: https://unchronicle.un.org/article/how-renewable-energy-can-be-cost-competitive.
  • 8. Bloomberg (2015) Fossil fuels losing cost advantage over solar, wind, IEA Says. Available from: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-08-31/solar-wind-power-costs-drop-as-fossil-fuels-increase-iea-says.
  • 9. IEA-RETD (2016) Re-transition: transitioning to policy frameworks for cost-competitive renewables. Available from: http://iea-retd.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/IEA-RETD_RE-TRANSITION.pdf.
  • 10.  Chow J, Kopp RJ, Portney PR (2003) Energy resources and global development. Science 302: 1528-1531.    
  • 11. Cleantechnica (2016) Grid parity: what is it, & why does it matter? Available from: https://cleantechnica.com/2016/03/30/grid-parity-what-is-it-why-does-it-matter/.
  • 12.  Yao X, Liu Y, Qu S (2015) When will wind energy achieve grid parity in China. Appl Energ 160: 697-704.    
  • 13. Jensen BB, Undeland T (2014). Technologies for electricity generation in wind, In: Moe E, Midford P (eds) The political economy of renewable energy and energy security, Houndsmill, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 139–156.
  • 14. Danish Wind Industry Association (2013) Offshore. Available from: http://www.windpower.org/en/policy/offshore.html.
  • 15.  Eikeland PO, Sæverud IA (2007) Market diffusion of new renewable energy in Europe. Energ Environ 18: 13-37.    
  • 16. The Sunlit uplands (2007). Available from: http://www.economist.com/node/9217928.
  • 17.  Stigler GJ (1971) The theory of economic regulation. Bell J Econ Manage Sci 2: 3-21.    
  • 18. March J, Olsen J (1989) Rediscovering Institutions, New York: Free Press.
  • 19. North DC (1990) Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance, New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • 20. Olson M (1982) The Rise and Decline of Nations, London: Yale University Press.
  • 21. Ayres, CE (1944) The Theory of Economic Progress, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
  • 22. Freeman C, Perez C (1988) Structural crisis of adjustment, business cycles and investment behavior, In: Dosi G, Freeman C. et al. (Eds.) Technical Change and Economic Theory, London: Pinter, 38–67.
  • 23.  Gilpin R (1996) Economic evolution of national systems. Int Stud Quart 40: 411-431.    
  • 24.  Nelson RR (1995) Recent evolutionary theorizing about economic change. JEL 33: 48-90.
  • 25.  Unruh GC (2000) Understanding carbon lock-in. Energ Policy 28: 817-830.    
  • 26. Mokyr J (1990) Lever of Riches, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • 27. Schumpeter JA (1942) Capitalism, socialism and democracy, New York: Harper Torchbooks.
  • 28. Fortune (2015) Global 500 2015. Available from: http://fortune.com/global500/wal-mart-stores-1/.
  • 29. IEA (2014) IEA Wind Publications. Available from: http://www.ieawind.org/publications/ archive_AR.html (home page).
  • 30.  Sovacool B (2009) Rejecting renewables: the socio-technical impediments to renewable electricity in the United States. Energ Policy 37: 4500-4513.    
  • 31. PEW (2014) 2013 Who's Winning the Clean Energy Race? Available from: http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/reports/2014/04/03/whos-winning-the-clean-energy-race-2013.
  • 32. REN21 (2013) Renewables 2013 Global Status Report. Paris: REN21 Secretariat.
  • 33. REN21 (2014) Renewables 2014 Global Status Report. Paris: REN21 Secretariat.
  • 34. New York Times (2006) Bush: 'America Is Addicted to Oil'. Available from: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/01/world/americas/01iht-state.html?pagewanted=all.
  • 35.  Skodvin T (2010) 'Pivotal politics' in US energy and climate legislation. Energ Policy 38: 4214-4223.    
  • 36. AWEA (2016) Wind energy gains predictability from tax credits' multi-year extension. Available from: http://www.awea.org/MediaCenter/pressrelease.aspx?ItemNumber=8250.
  • 37. Zusman E, Fukuda K, Yoshino M, et al. (2012) Why the United States Lacks a Federal Climate Policy. IGES Working Paper. Available from: http://pub.iges.or.jp/modules/envirolib/ upload/3427/ attach/us_climate_policy.pdf.
  • 38. Sovacool B (2008) The Dirty Energy Dilemma: What's Blocking Clean Power in the United States, Westport, Connecticut: Praeger.
  • 39. Goodell J (2007) Big Coal, New York: Houghton Mifflin.
  • 40.  Bang G (2010) Energy security and climate change concerns: triggers for energy policy change in the united states. Energ Policy 38: 1645-1653.    
  • 41. Energistyrelsen (2017) Stamdataregister for vindkraftanlæg, Oversigtstabel_Vindkraft.xls – ult. december 2016. Available from: https://ens.dk/service/statistik-data-noegletal-og-kort/data-oversigt-over-energisektoren.
  • 42.  Sovacool B (2013) Energy policymaking in Denmark. Energ Policy 61: 829-839.    
  • 43.  Eikeland PO, Inderberg TH (2016) Energy system transformation and long-term interest constellations in Denmark. ERSS 11: 164-173.
  • 44.  Sperling K, Hvelplund F, Mathiesen BV (2010) Evaluation of wind power planning in Denmark-towards an integrated perspective. Energy 35: 5443-5454.    
  • 45.  Buen J (2006) Danish and Norwegian wind. Energ Policy 34: 3887-3897.    
  • 46. IEA (2011) Energy Policies of IEA Countries: Denmark, 2011 Review, Paris: OECD/IEA.
  • 47. New York Times (2007) Denmark leads the way in green energy-to a point. Available from: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/21/business/worldbusiness/21iht-green1.4978075.html.
  • 48. Windpower Monthly (2016) Danish wind share falls in 2016. Available from: http://www.windpowermonthly.com/article/1420900/danish-wind-share-falls-2016.
  • 49. Information (2002) Håndværksrådet: Regeringen fører energipolitik med hovedet under armen. Available from: http://www.information.dk/65839.
  • 50. Politiken (2007) Foghs forvandling. Available from: http://politiken.dk/indland/ fakta_indland/ECE442809/foghs-forvandling.
  • 51. Information (2008) Energiaftale med ophævelse af kulstop, nye vindmøller og energibesparelser. Available from: http://www.information.dk/155273.
  • 52. IRENA_GWEC (2012) 30 Years of Policies for Wind Energy, Available from: https://www.irena.org/DocumentDownloads/Publications/IRENA_GWEC_WindReport_Full.pdf.
  • 53. CAN (2015) Lame Danes Win Fossil for Undermining Ambition. Available from: http://www.climatenetwork.org/node/5444.
  • 54. DR (2015) Klima-og enerigminister vil sænke klimaambition. Available from: http://www.dr.dk/nyheder/politik/klima-og-energiminister-vil-saenke-klimaambition.
  • 55. Karnøe P, Jensen JS (2017) Struggles in Denmark's transition towars a low carbon future, In: Looney RE (Ed.) Handbook of Transitions to Energy and Climate Security, New York: Routledge, 391–412.
  • 56. Regeringen (2016) Regeringsgrundlag Marienborgaftalen 2016. For et friere, rigere og mere trygt Danmark. 2016/18: 5.
  • 57. pv magazine (2017) European solar demand fell 20% in 2016, says SolarPower Europe. Available from: https://www.pv-magazine.com/2017/02/03/european-solar-demand-fell-20-in-2016-says-solarpower-europe/.
  • 58.  Moe E (2012) Vested interests, energy efficiency and renewables in Japan. Energ Policy 40: 260-273.
  • 59. Midford P (2014) The impact of 3–11 on japanese public opinion and policy toward energy security, In: Moe E, Midford P (eds) The Political Economy of Renewable Energy and Energy Security, Houndsmill, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 67–96.
  • 60. Iida, T. (2010) Policy and politics of renewable energy in Japan. Presented at the Rikkyo University International Symposium.
  • 61. GWEC (2016) Global Wind Report. Annual Market Update 2015. Available from: http://www.gwec.net/wp-content/uploads/vip/GWEC-Global-Wind-2015-Report_April-2016_22_04.pdf.
  • 62. Asano K (2014) Early promoter of solar photovoltaics, In: Moe E, Midford P (eds) The Political Economy of Renewable Energy and Energy Security, Houndsmill, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 157–174.
  • 63. Vosse W (2014) EU-Japan Cooperation in the Development and Implementation of Renewable Energy. Available from: http://www.academia.edu/7397907/EU- Japan_Cooperation_ in_the_Development_and_Implementation_of_Renewable_Energy.
  • 64. WNA (World Nuclear Association) (2017) Nuclear Power in Japan. Available from: http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-g-n/japan-nuclear-power.aspx.
  • 65. GWEC (2017a) Offshore Wind Power in Germany: Expansion figures for 2016. Available from: http://www.gwec.net/offshore-wind-power-in-germany-expansion-figures-for-2016/.
  • 66. GWEC (2017b) After good expansion, there are now challenging times ahead. Available from: http://www.gwec.net/onshore-wind-in-germany-after-good-expansion-there-are-now-challenging-times-ahead/.
  • 67. IEA (2000) IEA Wind Energy Annual Report 1999, Golden, CO: NREL.
  • 68. Deutsche Bank Research (2016) German 'Energiewende': Many targets out of sight. Available from: http://www.dbresearch.com/MAIL/DBR_INTERNET_ENPROD/PROD0000000000406 742.pdf.
  • 69. DW (2014) German utility company RWE posts worst results in over 60 years. Available from: http://www.dw.com/en/german-utility-company-rwe-posts-worst-results-in-over-60-years/a-17471228.
  • 70. Natural Gas Europe (2016) Giant German Utility Splits Into Two. Available from: http://www.naturalgaseurope.com/giant-german-utility-splits-into-two.
  • 71.  Jacobsson S, Lauber V (2006) The politics and policy of energy system transformation – explaining the German diffusion of renewable energy technology. Energ Policy 34: 256-276.    
  • 72. Jankowska K (2014) The German policy support mechanism for photovoltaics, In: Moe E, Midford P (eds) The Political Economy of Renewable Energy and Energy Security, Houndsmill, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 258–275.
  • 73. Schreurs M. (2002) Environmental politics in Japan, Germany, and the United States, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • 74.  Stegen KS, Seel M (2014) The winds of change: how wind firms assess Germany's energy transition. Energ Policy 61: 1481-1489.
  • 75. Patt A (2015) Transforming Energy, New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • 76. Clean Energy Wire (2015) Connecting up the Energiewende. Available from: https://www.cleanenergywire.org/dossiers/energy-transition-and-germanys-power-grid.
  • 77. Clean Energy Wire (2015) Loops and cracks: Excess German power strains Europe's grids. Available from: https://www.cleanenergywire.org/news/loops-and-cracks-excess-german-power-strains-europes-grids-0.
  • 78.  Nordensvärd J, Urban F (2015) The stuttering energy transition in Germany. Energ Policy 82: 156-165.    
  • 79. Reuters (2015) Power line standoff holds back Germany's green energy drive. Available from: http://www.reuters.com/article/germany-energy-protests-idUSL6N0WH0WH20150603.
  • 80. AWEA (2015) A pleasant surprise: USA, not China, is #1 in wind energy. Available from: http://aweablog.org/blog/post/a-pleasant-surprise-usa-not-china-is-1-in-wind-energy.
  • 81. EIA (2017) Electric Power Monthly. Table 1.1.A. Net Generation from Renewable Sources: Total (All Sectors), 2007-January 2017. Available from: http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.cfm?t=epmt_1_01_a.
  • 82. Roney JM (2015) Wind power beats nuclear again in China. Earth Policy Institute. Available from: http://www.earth-policy.org/data_highlights/2015/highlights50.
  • 83.  Hu D, Xu S (2013) Opportunity, challenges and policy choices for China on the development of shale gas. Energ Policy 60: 21-26.    
  • 84.  Klagge B, Liu Z, Silva PC (2012) Constructing China's wind energy innovation system. Energ Policy 50: 370-382.    
  • 85.  Wang Z, Qin H, Lewis J (2012) China's wind power industry. Energ Policy 51: 80-88.    
  • 86.  Liu J, Goldstein D (2013) Understanding China's renewable energy technology industry. Energ Policy 52: 417-428.    
  • 87.  Zhang S, Andrews SP, Zhao X (2013) Political and institutional analysis of the success and failures of China's wind power policy. Energ Policy 56: 331-340.    
  • 88.  Zhang S, Andrews SP, Zhao X, et al. (2013) Interactions between renewable energy policy and renewable energy industrial policy. Energ Policy 62: 342-353.    
  • 89.  Zhang S, Andrews SP, Ji M (2014) The erratic path of the low-carbon transition in China. Energ Policy 67: 903-912.    
  • 90.  Zhao YZ, Hu J, Zuo J (2009) Performance of wind power industry development in China. Renew Energ 34: 2883-2891.    
  • 91.  Wang Q (2010) Effective policies for renewable energy-the example of China's wind power–lessons for China's photovoltaic power. Renew Sust Energ Rev 14: 702-712.    
  • 92. Wang Y (2014) A review of renewable energy legislation and policies in China, In: Moe E, Midford P (eds) The Political Economy of Renewable Energy and Energy Security, Houndsmill, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 197–220.
  • 93. gtm (2015) Another Reason We Can't Fully Trust China's Solar Installation Numbers. Available from: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/another-reason-we-cant-trust-chinas-solar-installation-numbers.
  • 94. Reuters (2015) Chinese wind under pressure with fifth of farms idle. Available from: http://www.reuters.com/article/china-windpower-idUSL3N0Y24DM20150517.
  • 95. Reuters (2013) China's bailouts darken horizon for solar panel sector. Available from: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/26/suntech-glut-idUSL3N0CG03820130326.
  • 96.  Schuman S, Lin A (2012) China's renewable energy law and its impact on renewable power in China. Energ Policy 51: 89-109.    
  • 97.  Korsnes M (2014) Fragmentation, centralisation and policy learning. J Curr Chinese Affair 43: 175-205.
  • 98. IEEE (2016) Wind Battles Coal for Access to China's Grid. Available from: http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/renewables/wind-battles-coal-for-access-to-chinas-grid/? utm_source=EnergyWise&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_campaign=EW09212016.
  • 99. theenergycollective (2013) Transforming China's Grid: Will Coal Remain King in China's Energy Mix? Available from: http://theenergycollective.com/michael-davidson/251931/transforming-china-s-grid-will-coal-remain-king-china-s-energy-mix.
  • 100.  Zhao X, Zhang S, Zou Y, et al. (2013) To what extent does wind power deployment affect vested interests. Energ Policy 63: 814-822.    
  • 101. WRI (World Resources Institute) (2016) China's 1-2-3 Punch to Tackle Wasted Renewable Energy. Available from http://www.wri.org/blog/2016/04/chinas-1-2-3-punch-tackle-wasted-renewable-energy.
  • 102. WRI (World Resources Institute) (2017) China's Decline in Coal Consumption Drives Global Slowdown in Emissions. Available from: http://www.wri.org/blog/2017/01/ china%E2%80%99s-decline-coal-consumption-drives-global-slowdown-emissions.


Reader Comments

your name: *   your email: *  

Copyright Info: © 2017, Espen Moe, licensee AIMS Press. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licese (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)

Download full text in PDF

Export Citation

Copyright © AIMS Press All Rights Reserved