Global Governance of Energy Systems Transition in a Geopolitical Context - Looking at the Emerging Dynamics of Oil and Coal Beyond the High-Income Countries

Madhavi, Madhu (2022). Global Governance of Energy Systems Transition in a Geopolitical Context - Looking at the Emerging Dynamics of Oil and Coal Beyond the High-Income Countries. PhD thesis The Open University.



Despite efforts to decarbonise energy systems gathering momentum in response to intensified calls demanding tangible action and a departure towards cleaner and net-zero energy pathways, oil and coal dominate the global energy systems and are predicted to remain prominent in the foreseeable future in all energy scenarios, threatening the transition to net-zero pathways. Even as the consumption of fossil fuels, particularly coal-fired power declines in the West, India’s continued use of coal, under the current trends, is likely to be one of the dominant contributors towards the global increase in CO2 emissions in 2040. Oil will also continue to remain strategically important to the global energy systems in the near-term scenario and will continue to influence energy markets and global geopolitics. These realities, together, present grave prospects for the world’s environment.

Global energy governance processes have a key role to play but a fundamentally different approach will be needed to lead energy systems decarbonisation. Recognizing the importance for holistic insights for successful and effective governance in the context of net-zero transition and the emerging geopolitics of oil and coal, a mixed-methods approach is adopted in this thesis to analyse the potential of global energy governance arrangements for leading the net-zero transition. The use of both quantitative and qualitative methods enables to capture diverse perspectives to explore the key relationships and feedbacks critical for future energy system transition. Document analysis helps to explore the relevant theories, concepts, and trends. This thesis is informed empirically by system-dynamics models exploring scenarios emerging from continued oil price volatility and expansion of coal-fired generation within the context of energy systems transition.

The oil model tests the scenarios resulting from supply-side shocks linked to energy security and demand disruptions as a possible consequence of growing pressures of decarbonisation. Damped oscillation in oil prices occur resulting from ongoing readjustments in systems, occurring even long after initial shocks have passed. Without strategic intervention through effective governance arrangements, the world may remain locked-into using oil in the foreseeable future. Global governance institutions can use the low-price window, to help oil producers to diversify their economies and initiate structural reform to gradually steer the world away from oil. Results from India coal SD-model show that even as India succeeds in meeting its Paris commitment of reducing the emission intensity of its GDP by 30-35% below 2005 levels by 2030, the CO2 emissions will continue to rise and can only be stabilised with the use of advanced clean coal technology enabled with capture. The insights from India-coal SD model tested by performing a techno-economic feasibility analysis using both document analysis and Monte Carlo Simulation using @RISK software, reveal that notwithstanding their technological suitability, advanced clean coal technologies enabled with CCS will significantly increase the cost of electricity and struggle in India, as in other emerging economies, without adequate financial support, knowledge transfer and international cooperation. Analysed against the challenges revealed by the scenarios examined by the oil and coal model, this thesis observes that the existing institutional framework lacks the mandate to effectively deal with the complexity of challenges facing energy systems transition towards secure, sustainable and affordable energy pathways. This thesis argues that despite some recent claims that a new era for energy governance is underway, its institutional landscape and capacity has remained largely unchanged over the past few decades and, in its current form, is rendered ineffective, in addressing the emerging challenges of decarbonisation. A multi-actor, multi-regime complex of actors with proper mandate and remit may be effective. The research recommends that closer coordination and cooperation between processes and frameworks engaged in governance of energy systems will be needed to address contemporary energy challenges.

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