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Pluralistic Economics for Development in Green Economic Enhancement

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PEDIGREE (Pluralistic Economics for Development in Green Economic Enhancement)

Reporting period: 2016-01-01 to 2017-12-31

What is the problem/issue being addressed?
1) Determining which frameworks commonly used in ecological economics are best for devising policies for renewable energy uptake.
2) Specific policy recommendations for the greater European context.

Why is it important for society?
Policy prescriptions are linked with theoretical frameworks. Understanding this link is key to ensure that renewable energy targets are delivered efficiently and effectively.

What are the overall objectives?
The primary research objective is to determine which economic framework, or set of frameworks, has influenced the uptake of coherent and effective policy prescriptions for renewable energy sources, specifically for electricity generation. Renewable energy sources are those that can be readily replenished such as solar, wind, modern biomass, hydropower, and geothermal. Non-renewable sources are those that cannot be replenished readily such as crude oil, petroleum, natural gas, coal, and uranium. Secondary research objectives are required to fulfil the primary objective and are divided into two phases. Phase one includes the following: 1) deconstructing the assumptions underlying each economic framework’s conceptual components by analysing them in light of their ontology (character of the social world, or preanalytical foundation), epistemology (theory of knowledge), methodology which is the ontology and epistemology of a framework plus the methods it uses (mathematical modelling, hermeneutical, dialectical, etc.), and ideology (utilitarian, communitarian, etc.); 2) investigating the socio-historical, political, cultural, and economic dimensions of energy policy in seven countries—the UK, Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, Canada, and the US developing the materials into case studies of each country to define a measure of effective policy (renewable energy penetration in electrical generation that was driven by policy rather than other societal or geological drivers); and 3) assessing each economic framework against the case studies to determine which framework, or set of frameworks, best describes energy policy and practice, and the ways in which energy policy and practice are determined and change in each country.
1) Review of the literature on pluralism and methodology in ecological economics
2) Review of the literature on case study methodology, grounded theory, and process tracing
3) Review of the literature on the four approaches to ecological economics, and a deconstruction of their main conceptual components
4) Fieldwork in Germany, Canada, Norway, Sweden, UK and France. US partially investigated.

As a result of PEDIGREE we have been able to determine that a combination of institutional economics and ecological Marxist political economy are best suited for policy development, although ecological Marxist political economy is best suited as a critical framework to address potential systemic problems when trying to 1) develop policies for renewable energy uptake but 2) recognizing the limits of renewable energy for a system built on the need for constant growth.

Most of the publications will be written up after the duration of the fellowship. This is due to several reasons:
1) the project was targeted at the level of the state, but it turns out that analysis of extra-state institutions need further refinement of the economic frameworks. Also the effects of international institutions and agreements have much larger effects at the state level and how states interact, so this also still needs to be theoretically accounted for.
2) Sweden was added to the case study countries, which makes sense as it has a common electricity market with Norway and provides an interesting foil for Canada.
3) There were several aborted attempts to write up a grand study of all seven case study countries as indicated in the original application. This is due in part to the fact that environmental neoclassical economics and steady-state ecological economics lack the faculty to perform robust socio-historical and institutional analysis. I am currently drafting an alternative outline that will address the objectives indicated in the original proposal. One major change is a shift away from a book summarizing the findings to at least two lengthy policy papers that will present the findings of the case studies as well as recommend policies at the a) EU and b) state level.
4) This change has necessitated other changes to the publications and I am in the process of drafting a letter of proposal for the journal Ecological Economics to see if the editors would be willing to consider a three piece series presenting the findings of the research. This will ensure more significant impact as the findings will reach the community of ecological economists.
The results of the research thus far indicate the following: that reliance on socio-economically oriented ecological economic is suggested as they account for the social construction of markets and are better suited at indicating social, political, and cultural leverage points (as well as barriers) for renewable energy uptake; that while Germany provides a good model, more emphasis needs to be placed on institutional contexts in each country. Properly devised, institutions policies, and incentives can assist a specific country’s RE uptake but only when socio-economic analysis is conducted. This also applies to international institutions, such as the EU and NAFTA; more consideration needs to be given to climate finance and social economy initiatives (such as worker and/or community owned energy cooperatives) as they are key drivers of RE; and the EU should reconsider its reliance on “free markets” for RE uptake. While cost and price are important, they should not override climate initiatives or slow them down.
Global Sustainability Institute
Dr Dennis Badeen