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Renewable Energy as a Luxury? A Qualitative Comparative Analysis of the Role of the Economy in the EU's Renewable Energy Transitions During the ‘Double Crisis’

Jan-Justus Andreas, Charlotte Burns and Julia Touza

Ecological Economics, 2017, vol. 142, issue C, 81-90

Abstract: The European Union (EU) faces a double crisis: both economic and environmental, which has brought into stark relief the question of whether climate change mitigation and economic growth are mutually exclusive. Is saving the environment a ‘luxury’ reserved for wealthy countries, with less affluent countries being too poor to be green? We seek to address this important and timely question using fuzzy-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA) to analyse the causal relationship between economic growth and stability, and the expansion of renewable electricity shares among the European Union's (EU) 28 member states during the recent economic recession (2008–2013). Our paper, analyses the recent economic and financial crisis and its effects on sustainability transitions, and establishes a new indicator for progress in renewable electricity transitions in the context of Europe's 2020 targets. It therefore extends the ‘sustainability as a luxury’ debate to include renewable energy. The analysis reveals an ambivalent picture of the role of wealth in renewable energy transitions (RET) in Europe. Indeed, driven by the EU's common renewable energy targets, the findings suggest that RETs are promoted both because, and in spite of the means.

Keywords: Austerity; Economic crisis; EU; Double crisis; Renewable energy; Qualitative Comparative Analysis (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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