Energy Transition

Responding to climate change requires societies to rapidly transition from using sources of energy that emit high levels of greenhouse gases (GHG), to utilising solar photovoltaics, wind power, hydrogen, and other sources of low carbon energy.

Mainland China is crucial to energy transition globally. China is the largest emitter of GHG gases, and the energy sector makes up the majority of its national GHG emissions profile. For Australia China is also a key partner in trade and investment in the energy sector.

The Energy Transition Spoke of China in the World is a platform for ANU researchers working on policy issues related to energy transition, with a geographic focus on the Chinese mainland, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, or with collaborators from these locations. The Spoke is managed out of the Centre for Climate and Energy Policy (CCEP) at the Crawford School of Public Policy, and is open to membership by academic staff throughout the Australian National University.

Xuemei Bai

Xuemei Bai

Urban Environment and Human Ecology, Fenner School of Environment and Society

Howard Bamsey

Howard Bamsey

School of Regulation and Global Governance, College of Asia & the Pacific

Sara Bice

Crawford School of Public Policy, College of Asia & the Pacific

Paul Burke

Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

Dr Wenting Cheng

Wenting Cheng

ANU College of Law

Dr Llewelyn Hughes

Llewelyn Hughes

Crawford School of Public Policy, College of Asia & the Pacific

Jorrit Gosens

Centre for Climate and Energy Policy, Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific

Frank Jotzo

Frank Jotzo

Centre for Climate and Energy Policy, Crawford School of Public Policy, College of Asia and the Pacific

Sango Mahanty

Sango Mahanty

Crawford School of Public Policy, College of Asia & the Pacific

Spoke members are engaged in a wide range of activities and projects, financed by CIW and other sources. These include the following:

Understanding green investment principles for the Belt and Road
Project lead: Wenting Cheng

China’s Belt and Road Initiative has focused on investing infrastructure projects. The GDP of 126 BRI countries (except China) accounts for 23% of global GDP, as well as 28% of global carbon emission. Should the current carbon-intensive development mode continue, carbon emission from the BRI countries would surge dramatically in the next decade. In order to “ensure environmental friendliness, climate resilience, and social inclusiveness”, the Green Investment Principles for the Belt and Road (GIP) was initiated in November 2018. This project aims to understand the motivation, implementation and impacts of the GIP, specifically why over 30 global financial institutions are committed to this set of voluntary principles, how these principles has been implemented in the BRI projects, and its potential impacts on energy transition.

Who governs global energy?
Project Lead: Christian Downie

This project examines an enduring question in global energy governance: how can energy be governed at the global level? A fine-grained empirical comparison of the role of multiple international organizations will advance the theory and practice of global governance by understanding and explaining the different ways organizations, such as the G20, the International Energy Agency, and the International Renewable Energy Agency, among others, govern energy. In doing so, the project contributes new data, theoretical tools and policy proposals for addressing the challenges associated with a failing international energy system, including energy security, energy access and climate change.

Taiwan as a niche market in Asia-Pacific Offshore Wind
Project lead: Llewelyn Hughes
Collaborators: Anton Gao, The Institute of Law for Science and Technology (ILST), National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan

Offshore wind power is an emerging source of renewable energy in the Asia-Pacific region. Taiwan has played an important role as a lead-market for offshore wind power in the region by implementing policies that have drawn substantial investment into the region by multinational offshore wind power developers. This project seeks to understand the political conditions that led to the passing of policies supporting the development of a domestic offshore wind power industry in Taiwan, and the extent to which local content requirements have supported the development of an indigenous capability in offshore wind power technologies.

Shifts in global centres of energy innovation and manufacturing industries
Project Lead: Jorrit Gosens

Global energy systems are undergoing a transition towards renewables, with expanded deployment of currently fairly matured renewables, and ongoing development of a number of novel renewable energy technologies. Simultaneously, global economic activity is increasingly less concentrated in the traditional group of advanced economies, and shifting towards emerging and developing economies. Both in terms of economic growth, and in output of renewable energy equipment, a number of Asian economies, and in particular China, stand out. This raises the question whether continued growth in renewable energy will exacerbate the rise of these emerging economies, or whether the advanced economies will be able to capture and/or retain substantial leadership in these new growth industries. The initial project will look at shifts in knowledge bases, using a global database of patent statistics, and analyse whether emerging economies are managing to generate larger share of patents or citations in clean power generation and transport technologies, when compared to fossil alternatives. The aim is to expand this project beyond knowledge production in a later phase, and with collaborators.

Green steel and Australia-China resource trade
Project lead: Frank Jotzo and Howard Bamsey
Collaborators: Researchers at ANU and Tsinghua University

China is the largest steel producer, Australia is the largest producer of iron ore and traded metallurgical coal, and the Australia-China trade in raw materials for steel is the world’s largest such supply chain. Steel making accounts for a significant share of global greenhouse gas emissions. In a future low-emissions world economy, steel making would use different processes, possibly including ‘green steel’ that uses hydrogen or electricity to process iron ore. There is a possibility that Australia might become a producer and exporter of green steel or green iron, based on its inherent renewable energy advantage. Whether and in what form this could happen depends on relative costs of energy and different production processes in different locations, what weight is given to local pollution, to what extent there is a strategic or pragmatic preference for steel manufacturing to continue to be located in China, and other factors. This project combines engineering, economics and strategic perspectives in assessing futures for the steel industry and bilateral resource trade.

Mobilizing private climate finance for a just energy transition in Indonesia
Project lead: Abidah Setyowati and Neil Gunningham

This project seeks to address one of the world’s most pressing challenges: to rapidly transition to a low carbon global economy which requires massive investment beyond the capability of public resources alone. Using the case study in Indonesia, it aims to interrogate the central role of governance in steering and mobilising resources so that it could best support a just transition to low carbon energy. The data, analysis and theoretical frameworks generated will inform design principles and policy proposals to harness private climate resources to expedite an energy transition. The project considers foreign investment in power plants such as coal and renewables, including China’s investment in Indonesia.

Book chapters

East Asian Bureau of Economic Research, China Center for International Economic Exchanges. “Collaboration in the Global System.” in Partnership for Change: Australia–China Joint Economic Report, 233-268. ANU Press (2016).

Hughes, L. and Rainer, Q., “Low-Carbon Technologies, National Innovation Systems, and Global Production Networks: The State of Play,” in Handbook on the IPE of Energy and Resources (Andreas Goldthau, Caroline Kuzemko and Michael Keating, eds.), Edward Elgar (2018).

Scholarly journals

Bose-Styczynski, A. and Hughes, L., “Public Policy Strategies for Next-generation Vehicle Technologies: An Overview of Leading Markets”, Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, Vol. 31 (2019): 262-272.

Cheng, W., “China Engages with Global Intellectual Property Governance: The Recent Trend”, Journal of World Intellectual Property, Vol. 22 (3-4) (2019): 1-16.

Cheng, W. and Drahos, P., “How China Built the World’s Biggest Patent Office: The Pressure Driving Mechanism”, IIC - International Review of Intellectual Property and Competition Law, Vol. 49 (1) (2018): 5-40.

Downie, C., “Global energy governance: do the BRICs have the energy to drive reform?”, International Affairs, Vol. 91 (4) (2015): 799-81.

Downie, C., and Drahos, P., “US institutional pathways to clean coal and shale gas: lessons for China”, Climate Policy, Vol. 17 (2) (2017): 246-260.

Gosens, J., Binz, C., and Lema, R., “China’s role in the next phase of the energy transition: Contributions to global niche formation in the Concentrated Solar Power sector”, Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, Vol. 34 (2020): 61-75.

Gosens, J., Lu, Y., and Coenen, L., “The role of transnational dimensions in emerging economy “Technological Innovation Systems” for clean-tech.”, Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol 86 (2015): 378-388.

Meckling, J., and Hughes, L., “Global interdependence in Clean Energy Transitions”, Business & Politics, Vol. 20 (4)(2018): 467-491.

Setyowati, A.B., “Mitigating Energy Poverty: Mobilizing Climate Finance to Manage the Energy Trilemma in Indonesia”, Sustainability, Vol. 12 (4)(2020): 1603.

Gosens, J., Gilmanova, A., and Lilliestam, J., “Windows of opportunity for catching up in formative sectoral systems and the rise of China in the Concentrated Solar Power sector.” Paper presented at the ECPR Conference, Wroclaw, Poland, 2019.

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